Founding Principles

The principles on which Special Olympics was founded, and which continue to guide the operation and expansion of the global Special Olympics Movement, include the following:

People with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, enjoy, learn and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, adapted as necessary to meet the needs of those with intellectual and physical limitations.

Consistent training under the guidance of qualified coaches, with emphasis on physical conditioning, is essential to the development of sports skills, and competition among those of equal abilities is the most appropriate means of testing these skills, measuring progress and providing incentives for personal growth.

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 with people with intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.

Every person with an intellectual disability who meets the eligibility requirements should have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the sports training and athletic competition programs offered by Special Olympics. 

Special Olympics must transcend all boundaries of race, gender, religion, national origin, geography, and political philosophy, and offer sports training and competition opportunities to all eligible persons with intellectual disabilities in accordance with uniform worldwide standards. 

Special Olympics celebrates and strives to promote the spirit of sportsmanship and a love of participation in sports for its own sake.  To that end, Special Olympics aims to provide every athlete with an opportunity to participate in training and competition events which challenge that athlete to his or her fullest potential, regardless of the athlete’s level of ability.  Special Olympics therefore requires that Special Olympics Games and Tournaments offer sports and events which are appropriate for athletes of all levels of ability, and in the case of team sports, provide every athlete with an opportunity to play in every game.

Special Olympics encourages sports training and competition opportunities at the local, area and community level (including schools) as a means of reaching the greatest number of eligible athletes.