Los Angeles will host the 14th Special Olympics World Summer Games July 25 – August 2. More than 7,000 Special Olympic athletes from 170 nations are expected to compete in 25 Olympic-type sports, which include aquatics, track and field, basketball, football (soccer), golf, gymnastics and volleyball among others. The Games could bring as many as a half-million people to the greater Los Angeles area.
The last time the Games were hosted on US soil was in 1999 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The most recent World Summer Games were held in Athens, Greece in 2011.
The Special Olympic World Summer Games differ from those the State and National Games in that the Worlds are held once every four years for each season of sport. State Games are held annually and are for athletes from that particular state. Athletes must compete at the State level and place in order to advance to the World Games. The National Games are held biannually, but are for qualifying athletes from across the country.
The Games are held specifically for those with an intellectual disability, the most common developmental disability. It is a platform to demonstrate to the public the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities and change attitudes and break down barriers that can exclude people.
Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability – a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functioning and skills including communication, social and self-care skills.
The first International Special Olympics Summer Games are held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Eunice Kennedy Shriver sought to take action and provide an environment for people with intellectual disabilities to play. Her summer day camp – held in her own backyard – was focused on what children could do in sports and other activities, rather than what they could not do. Throughout the 60s she worked with President John F. Kennedy’s White House panel on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities and as the director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation. Her vision and drive for equality eventually grew into the Special Olympics movement.
To athletes in our own backyard and from all countries, Summit DD wishes the best of luck and a great Games to all!
Want to get involved? Check out our Recreation page for more information on Special Olympics.