SOURCE: Special Olympics

July 16, 2008 11:00 ET

Special Olympics Celebrates 40th Year of Changing the Lives of People With Intellectual Disabilities Through the Power of Sport

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - July 16, 2008) - On 20 July Special Olympics will celebrate the 40 year anniversary of Eunice Kennedy Shriver declaring the first International Special Olympics Games (now World Games) officially open with the words, "Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

For 40 years Special Olympics has been changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through sports, along with building more inclusive and engaged communities around the world. In the true pioneer spirit that led Mrs. Shriver to use the simple power of sports to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities and their entire communities, Special Olympics is not using the milestone as a point of reflection, but rather an opportunity to recommit to its mission and continue to strive to be a leading movement in improving the lives of the largest disability population in the world.

"While we have made great strides over the last several years we still need to educate millions of people about the power and relevance of our movement," said Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver. "After 40 years many people still think Special Olympics is a nice event that happens once a year. We're using this important anniversary to tell everyone that Special Olympics happens everyday around the world. And we are inviting each one of them to become involved in Special Olympics and to help create a world of acceptance and dignity for all humanity."

Since that July afternoon of 1968 in Chicago's Soldier Field the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to 2.8 million athletes in over 180 countries in all regions of the world with more than 29,000 competitions year round. Special Olympics now takes place everyday in places like China and from regions like the Middle East to the community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood's backyard. Special Olympics has also added initiatives and expanded advocacy work -- all centered on the catalytic power of sport -- that include health, family support and education.

Most importantly Special Olympics is using the 40th Anniversary to celebrate its athletes.

"Our athletes have given the world far more than the world has given back. Every day they face persistent misunderstanding and discrimination that makes life somewhere between tough and unimaginable for so many. Yet they wake each day with a smile, ready for the next challenge," said Special Olympics President and Chief Operating Officer Brady Lum. "Our challenge is to confront this bias and to draw on the strength and courage of our athletes to constantly renew our commitment to defeat it in the generation ahead."

In celebration of 40 years of Special Olympics, the movement is offering a gift to the world by challenging everyone to go to their next local Special Olympics competition and experience inspiration, experience joy, experience courage and fun. Let the athletes of Special Olympics prove that when they come together there are no nationalities; no boundaries; no fear. For those already involved, the challenge is to introduce Special Olympics to someone new who has yet to experience the power of the movement. Striving to share the talents and gifts of the Special Olympics athletes with every person in the world is the best way to ensure another 40 years of Special Olympics!

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion among people with and without intellectual disabilities. Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for 2.8 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries, Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people's diverse gifts. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at

Contact Information

  • Contacts:
    Kirsten Seckler
    Special Olympics
    +1 (202) 715-1147
    Email Contact

    Cary McPartlin
    Special Olympics
    +1 (202) 824-0298
    Email Contact