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, acceptance and inclusion 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.

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

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