The spark that became today’s Special Olympics movement ignited at the first 1968 International Summer Games in Chicago, Ill., USA. Special Olympics Iowa was represented by Iowa athletes at those first games and in 2018 SOIA will also be celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary!
Since 1968, Special Olympics has been changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. For our year-long anniversary, we are celebrating 50 years of joy, courage and empowerment. Starting in January 2018, you’ll see the 50th Anniversary logo at SOIA events and on our website. We’ll also be making some exciting announcements about upcoming fun in honor of the 50th Anniversary.
In July, it was announced that Chicago will host the Special Olympics movement’s 50th Anniversary global celebration events July 17 – 22, 2018. Mary Davis, Special Olympics International CEO, and Justice Anne Burke, who founded Special Olympics Chicago, announced the news along with other organizers of the upcoming events.
Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Illinois and Special Children’s Charities have united to host nearly a week of exciting events to celebrate the past 50 years of Special Olympics and to launch the movement into the future.
“The 50th Anniversary will be a pivotal moment for Special Olympics, as we aim to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and as the leaders of inclusion through sport,” shared Mary Davis. “We have spent the past 50 years breaking down barriers for our athletes and creating opportunities through sport, but we still have much more work to do. For our 50th Anniversary, we are inviting all to join us as we shape a more accepting and inclusive future.”
“The torch that was lit here at Soldier Field 49 years ago today ignited a fire that will never die as long as we continue to celebrate the bravery of inspirational individuals – like Kevin O’Brien, Michael Cusack and others – who competed in 1968 and became examples, inspiring future Special Olympics athletes, here and around the world, to find the courage to enter the competition,” added Justice Burke.
Events planned for July 2018 in Chicago include the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Football (Soccer) Cup, a tournament of 24 men’s and women’s teams comprised of people with and without intellectual disabilities from countries around the globe.
Also planned is a star-studded concert, establishment of a Special Olympics Eternal Flame of Hope monument to symbolize the ongoing drive towards creating inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities, and a Change the Game Day event where the public is welcome to play unified and join in fun athletic competition with Special Olympics athletes at Soldier Field.
Also revealed today was a traveling 50th Anniversary Museum which, throughout 2018, will traverse the State of Illinois, sharing the history of Special Olympics. The travelling museum will visit Special Olympics Illinois competitions along with high-profile state, county and municipal events, educating its public on the history of Special Olympics, its impact socially through sport, and invite people to come to Chicago in July 2018 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary. The community is welcome to donate items and memories to the museum.
Anyone interested in learning more can visit www.SpecialOlympics50.org
History of Special Olympics
In the midst of all of the tumultuous unrest of 1968, an event was held at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Illinois on July 20. By its very nature, this was a revolutionary moment in time. The world witnessed for the first time a sports competition for people with intellectual disabilities from 26 states and Canada. It may come as a shock today to learn that many of the participants needed government pardons to leave the institutions in which they lived to travel to Chicago to compete. Eunice Kennedy Shriver led this community – who had been locked away and condemned to exist on the margins — out of the shadows and into one of the largest stadiums in the U.S. It was their chance, their moment, to show the world what they could accomplish.
Special Olympics Today
Today, Special Olympics is a global organization, with over 5 million athletes in 170 countries around the world, that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 22,500 of these athletes, more than 20,000 Young Athletes (ages 2 – 7 years old), 45,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 18 Area programs in all 102 counties of the state. Special Children’s Charities is the fundraising arm of Special Olympics in Chicago. In cooperation with the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and Special Olympics Illinois, Special Children’s Charities is committed to providing year-round sports training, recreational and social programs for the children and adults of Special Olympics in Chicago.