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The Olympics Made Special

special olympics logo


The Special Olympic Oath  

Let me win,
but if I cannot win
let me be brave
in the attempt.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

To write about the Special Olympics accurately one must introduce it’s visionary, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009). “With a vision all her own, she saw beyond every horizon to create new opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.” Shriver was born into wealth and power, the fifth of nine Kennedy children. She used her power to help the invisible or those perceived to be an embarrassment by the population at large. There will be a public ceremony later this month to honor Special Olympics Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

“The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”

special olympics

The first Special Olympics was held in Chicago, IL at Soldier Field on July 20th 1968, with less than 100 people in attendance. The event attracted roughly 1000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 26 states and Canada. Shriver believed that one million intellectually challenged individuals would compete athletically one day. Currently three million athletes train for and compete in Special Olympic games, training year round in all 50 states and 181 countries.

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Some of the events are:

Running races

Tossing softballs

Ski moguls


Pirouetting on skates

Lifting weights

A complete timeline of the history of the Special Olympics can be found on their website.

Special Olympics prove that people of all backgrounds, cultures, races and ages can work together peaceably to celebrate what we have in common and to focus on those in need ( The Special Olympics organization leads the world in researching and addressing the concerns of people with intellectual disabilities. At 200 million individuals, it is the largest disability group in the world. They identify pressing issues facing this group, commission and conduct high-level, externally validated scientific research, then reach out to the highest leaders in government, health care, education, the nonprofit sector and business to influence policy and to bring valuable services to those in need. Special Olympics’ research into intellectual disability, and perceptions of those who have intellectual disability, are a catalytic force for social and policy change around the globe.

The R-Word pledge is a movement designed to stop the use of the word retard. The word has been used in the past to insult or put down others. The challenge is to stop people from doing that. The more acceptable phrase is intellectually challenged, when referring to a member of this diverse group of individuals (

East Carolina University Physicians have provided Special Olympic athletes with physical examinations since 2001. The athletes are required to have a physical once every three years. Pitt County has approximately 500 active Special Olympics participants. North Carolina has active participation in tournaments. The Fall events take place in High Point, NC, in November.

Special Olympics Nov 2009

Nearly 540 athletes, 300 coaches, 500 volunteers and hundreds of family members, friends and supporters will convene in High Point Nov. 7-8 for the 2009 Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament. Special Olympics athletes from across the state will compete in cycling, roller skating and soccer.

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Photo Credits

ECU Libraries Materials