Special Olympics is founded on the belief that people
with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction
and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation
in individual and team sports. Special Olympics believes
that consistent training is essential to the development
of sports skills, and that competition among those of
equal abilities is the most appropriate means of testing
these skills, measuring progress and providing incentives
for personal growth. Special Olympics believes that
through sports training and competition, people with
intellectual disabilities benefit physically, mentally,
socially and spiritually; families are strengthened;
and the community at large, both through participation
and observation, is united in understanding people with
intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality,
respect and acceptance.
Spirit of Special Olympics
That the "Spirit of Special Olympics" — skill,
courage, sharing and joy — incorporates universal values
which transcend all boundaries of geography, nationality,
political philosophy, gender, age, race or religion.
The Mission of Special
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 a sharing of gifts, skills and
friendship with their families, other Special Olympics
athletes and the community.
The Goal of Special Olympics
That the goal of Special Olympics is to help bring all
persons with intellectual disabilities into the larger
society under conditions whereby they are accepted,
respected and given a chance to become productive citizens.
Special Olympics Athlete Oath
Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in
on Participation in Special Olympics
To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, athletes
must be at least 8 years old and identified by an agency
or professional as having one of the following conditions:
intellectual disability; a cognitive delay as determined
by standardized measures such as intelligence quotient
or other generally accepted measures; or a closely related
development disability, i.e., functional limitations
in both general learning and adaptive skills. There
is no cost to participate in Special Olympics. All prospective
athletes must register to participate in Special Olympics.
There is no maximum age limitation for participation
in Special Olympics. The minimum age requirement for
participation in Special Olympics competition is 8 years
of age. For children with intellectual disabilities
ages 2 through 7, Young Athletes strengthens physical
development and self-esteem by building skills for future
sports participation and socialization.
Athletics, Aquatics (Swimming, Diving), Gymnastics,
Basketball, weight-lifting, Bowling, Roller Skating,
Golf, Bocce, Cycling, Softball, Equestrian, Tennis,
Football (Soccer), Volleyball, Badminton, Table Tennis,
Team Handball, Sailing, Kayaking, Judo，table tennis.
Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Floor Hockey, Speed
Skating, Figure Skating, Snowshoeing, Snowboarding.
Divisioning for Special
The fundamental difference that sets Special Olympics
competitions apart from those of other sports organizations
is that athletes of all ability levels are encouraged
to participate, and every athlete is recognized for
his or her performance. Competitions are structured
so that athletes compete with other athletes of similar
ability in equitable divisions.
Divide Athletes by Gender
Male, Female, and Mixed
Divide Athletes by Age
Individual Sports：8-11, 12-15, 16-21, 22-29 & above
Team Sports：below 15, 16-21 & above 22
Divide the group by athlete's ages calculated on the
opening date of the competition. The age for a team
is determined by the age of the oldest athlete in that
team on the opening date of the competition.
Divide Athletes by Ability
Declared records or results of the preliminary seeding
round are used in dividing the group before preliminaries.
In individual sports, the highest and lowest scores
within each division should be as similar as not exceeding
10% in difference.
Results from preliminary seeding round are used as proofs
and modification supports in the official games.
Divide Athletes by Ability
To complete the divisioning process, divide the group
according to their performance marks. In some instances
age groups need to be broadened. In those cases, athletes
within the new age groups will be re-ranked and grouped
into divisions. This process must be repeated until
the highest and lowest scores within each division are
as similar as possible.
Divide Athletes into Mixed Gender Group
Athletes at the same age with similar performance, no
matter male or female, may be mixed while the maximum
number is 8 and the minimum 3.
Special Olympics regulates that all participating athletes
should spare no efforts in both preliminary and official
games or otherwise would be disqualified from the Special
Olympics. Any athletes may be disqualified if his/her
final results indicate a difference of 15% or more than
the declared records or results of the preliminary seeding
Advancement of Special Olympics
How can an athlete be advanced from a lower level game
to a higher level game (i.e. from regional game to world
The athlete must have participated in a minimum of eight
weeks in an organized training program under a SO coach
The athlete must participate in the same sport or sports
as he/she previously trained;
The quota shall be reasonably allocated at priority
to those of the first-place winners in at the lower
level competition. If the number of first-place winners
exceeds the quota, athletes shall be chosen by random
selection from among all the division winners;
Athletes of the second-place winners shall be chosen
by random if the number of first-place falls short of
quota, all the first place winner will be advanced.
If the number of athletes thus selected still falls
short, repeat the selection procedure mentioned above
till the quota is reached ;
Regional games can set out new rules according to athletes’
performance, health and other practical cases, by first
submitting in written applications to SOI’s head office.
Difference between the Special Olympics, the Olympics
Games and the Paralympic Games
The Special Olympics World Games is set up by Special
Olympics International for people with intellectual
disabilities. It differs from the Olympics Games and
the Paralympics in the following aspects: participating
athlete: Special Olympics athletes are usually those
with IQ below 70; purpose: Special Olympics emphasizes
participation instead of competition; sports rules:
The rules of Special Olympics have unique characteristics,
which fully demonstrate the principle of equal participation
and competition based on equitable division of ability.
Participating athletes will be divided according to
age, gender and ability. Athletes with the same gender,
similar age and equivalent ability will be placed in
the same division.