Knowledgebase: Sport FAQ
What is Special Olympics?
Posted by on 02 August 2011 12:56 PM

Special Olympics is a world-wide program providing sports training and competition for people with an intellectual disability. Sport Canada recognizes the Special Olympics organization as the main provider of these services to people whose primary diagnosis is an intellectual disability.

Special Olympics in Canada

In the early sixties, testing of children with an intellectual disability revealed that they were only half as fit as their non-disabled peers. It was assumed that their low level of fitness was a direct result of their disability. A Toronto researcher, Dr. Frank Hayden, questioned this assumption. Dr. Hayden conducted research, which concluded that given the opportunity, individuals with an intellectual disability could become physically fit, and acquire the physical skills necessary to participate in sport.

Inspired by his discoveries, Dr. Hayden began researching for ways to develop a national sports program for people with an intellectual disability. His work came to the attention of the Kennedy Foundation in Washington, D.C. and led to the creation of Special Olympics. The first sports competition organized under the Special Olympics banner was held at Soldier's Field in Chicago in 1968.

To ensure Canada's representation at the competition, Dr. Hayden called on the renowned broadcaster, successful businessman and humanitarian; Harry "Red" Foster. Mr. Foster accompanied a floor hockey team from Toronto to the competition in Chicago. Mr. Foster saw this as an opportunity to enhance the lives of mentally disabled Canadians, and upon returning to Canada he set about laying the foundation for the Special Olympics movement.

In 1969, the first Special Olympics event was held in Toronto. Today, over 35,000 athletes with an intellectual disability participate in Special Olympics programs across the country. Special Olympic Ontario’s primary objective is to contribute to the physical, social and psychological development of people with intellectual disability through positive, successful experiences in sports.

The Mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics strives to give athletes with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to develop their physical fitness, to demonstrate courage, to experience joy and to have an opportunity to share their skills and gifts with their families and community.

Find out more information on Special Olympics and the organizations history, please click on the link below:

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