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A History of the Special Olympics

Last updated 5 years ago

For more than 40 years, the Special Olympics has provided thousands of individuals with disabilities the opportunity to celebrate their athletic achievements. This year, Atlanta has the great honor of continuing this tradition, as the Special Olympics will be held at Emory University from May 17 to May 19. Today, the Special Olympics is a worldwide event in which 170 nations participate; however, it began as a single woman’s dream to provide the intellectually disabled with a means to showcase their many talents.

Eunice Shriver’s Vision

Eunice Shriver, sister to President John F. Kennedy, was no stranger to the hardships that those with intellectual disabilities struggled with on a daily basis. Her own sister, Rosemary, suffered from intellectual challenges. Eunice Shriver was appalled by the lack of public support for these individuals. Not only were they not treated with the same respect granted to others, but also they had little resources to enhance their quality of life. Thus began Shriver’s mission to give the intellectually disabled the recognition they deserve.

The Expansion of a Dream

The Special Olympics started out only as a camp in Shriver’s own backyard. As her dedication to her vision continued throughout the years, so too did the recognition of her efforts. Chicago’s Soldier Field would eventually be the backdrop for the very first International Special Olympics, which was attended by more than 1,000 athletes. Less than a decade later, the first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

The Special Olympics’ Future

Through Eunice Shriver’s unrelenting commitment to the Special Olympics, the games have become a global gathering in which thousands of athletes acknowledge their individual accomplishments and respect those of their competitors. Also, the Special Olympics raises millions of dollars each year for the continued support of those with intellectual disabilities.

Are you heading to Atlanta this May for the Special Olympics? Let The University Inn at Emory provide your lodging while you’re in town. Call (404) 465-3549 to find out more about our hotel accommodations.


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