World Games History

Every day, all around the world, our athletes train and strive to achieve their very best. At the World Games, the world comes together to see our athletes in action and celebrate their victories over huge odds. The Special Olympics World Games embrace unity, achievement and dignity.

The Most Inspirational Sporting Event on the Planet

Every two years, the world transcends the boundaries of geography, nationality, political philosophy, gender, age, culture and religion, to come together for the largest sporting and humanitarian event on the planet, the Special Olympics World Games. Alternating between Summer and Winter Games, this event is the flagship event of the Special Olympics Movement, which promotes equality, tolerance and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities around the world.


No other organized event in the world has the emotional and social impact of the Special Olympics World Games. For the athletes and their families, it opens doors to unimagined possibilities. For those who volunteer, support, and sponsor the Games, it inspires unprecedented pride and hope for a brighter future. And for the cities, states, and nations who host the Games, it transforms their society, creating a more just and understanding environment for all, and demonstrating to the world their recognition of the value of every human being.


The Special Olympics World Games feature nine days of challenging and inspiring international competition among thousands of athletes, making it the world’s second-largest sports event, after the Olympic Games. The World Games are watched on television by millions of viewers across six continents, and more than 500,000 spectators including world leaders, celebrities and dignitaries, typically attend the event. The culmination of years of athletic training and competition, the World Games bring together adults and children with intellectual disabilities to compete on one of the world’s greatest athletic stages.


The Special Olympics World Games are one of the most powerful vehicles for communicating to the world the abilities and gifts of people with intellectual disabilities. Wherever they are held, the World Games act as a catalyst for growth in Special Olympics sports programs in communities around the world and promote awareness among all segments of society. We are helping to make the world a better, healthier and more joyful place – one athlete, one volunteer, one family member at a time.


1968      Chicago, Illinois                                          
1970      Chicago, Illinois
1972      Los Angeles, California
1975      Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
1977      Steamboat Springs, Colorado
1979      Brockport, New York
1981      Stowe, Vermont
1983      Baton Rouge, Louisiana
1985      Park City, Utah
1987      South Bend, Indiana
1989      Reno, Nevada
1991      Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
1993      Salzburg, Austria
1995      New Haven, Connecticut
1997      Toronto, Canada
1999      Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina
2001      Anchorage, Alaska
2003      Dublin, Ireland
2005      Nagano, Japan
2007      Shanghai, China
2009      Boise, Idaho
2011      Athens, Greece
2013      PyeongChang, South Korea
2015      Los Angeles, California

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