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.
This global movement to allow people with learning difficulties to realise their physical potential was started in the United States by the famous Kennedy family. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (the older brother of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy) was killed in action during the Second World War. The family established a foundation as a memorial to Joseph. In 1962 his sister, Eunice, began running – in her own home – sporting ‘day camps’ for mentally handicapped youngsters. In the following years, colleges and community groups hosted similar events across the United States, with sponsorship from the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.
In 1968 a first international games took place in Chicago, bringing together 1,000 mentally handicapped athletes from 26 US states and Canada. Since then, Special Olympics has become a global movement involving more than 3.7 million athletes from more than170 countries. Over the past 43 years Special Olympics has grown from a modest program serving local athletes to become the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities through sports.Special Olympics East Asia (SOEA) is one of the seven regions of Special Olympics International. It works closely with its five accredited Programs, Special Olympics China, Special Olympics Chinese Taipei, Special Olympics Hong Kong, Special Olympics Korea and Special Olympics Macau, to promote Special Olympics movement throughout the Region.
With over thirty years of development, Special Olympics currently offers all twenty-eight summer and winter sports in the East Asia Region. The total number of SO athletes in the region reached 1,095,397 accounting for one third of the total number around the world at the end of 2010 according to the official census. The 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games was successfully held in Shanghai, China during October 2-11, 2007, with active participation of about 1600 athletes from the East Asia region. The 10th World Winter Games will be held in Pyeongchang, Korea during Jan.30 to Feb.06, 2013.Special Olympics began working in China in 1985 and hosted its first competition in Shenzhen in 1987.
In October 2007, China hosted the 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, which attracted a record 7,182 athletes from 164 countries and regions and 40,000 volunteers from all over the world. That marked the first time an Asian country and a developing nation hosted the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics have a range of supporters, corporate supporters, government supporters, community supporters and individual supporters. The East Asia programme were funded mainly by corporate sponsors, including UBS AG, Mattel,Laureus Sports for Good Foundation, Boeing and Dragon Air.