Special Olympics 50th Anniversary

Celebrating 50 years of empowerment: 1968-2018

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. Since 1968, Special Olympics has been changing the world! We are excited to celebrate the movement’s 50th anniversary throughout 2018.

50 Great Moments in Special Olympics History

1968: First Special Olympics Games

On July 20, 1968, 1,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities competed in the first Special Olympics International Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. Six North Carolina athletes attended the 1968 Games, including Marty Sheets.

1970: First Special Olympics competition held in NC

Special Olympics North Carolina held its first Games May 29-31, 1970 in Burlington. 400 athletes and 350 chaperones and parents attended.

1971: SONC is chartered

In November 1971, North Carolina Special Olympics, Inc. is chartered in Burlington to administer the Special Olympics program in North Carolina.

1974: First SONC Games held in Raleigh

In May 1974, the Capital City Jaycees held the first North Carolina Games in Raleigh for nearly 1,400 athletes.  Approximately 5,700 athletes in 42 counties compete in Special Olympics at this time.

Get Involved in Honor of our 50th!

In just 50 years, the Special Olympics movement has grown to a worldwide revolution seeking to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. But we can’t do it alone! In honor of our 50th anniversary, consider getting involved in a variety of ways!

50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago

Five decades later, the Special Olympics movement is returning to Chicago to launch the year-long global Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebrations in July 2018.

Events planned for July 2018 in Chicago include the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup.

Also planned is a star-studded Global Day of Inclusion, where the public can “Play Unified” and join in fun athletic competition with Special Olympics athletes. There will also be the ceremonial lighting of the Special Olympics Eternal Flame of Hope, which will symbolize our burning passion for inclusion and justice for people with intellectual disabilities.

Learn more about the Chicago celebration.