Reach Up L.A: The History & Prominence behind Special Olympics
By Sam Healy, Live Wire Staff Writer
In Los Angeles, California, the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games opened on July 25 and ended on August 2.
The 2015 Games featured competitions in aquatics, gymnastics, track and field, basketball, football (soccer) and many other summer sports involving 6,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from around the world.
Los Angeles hosted up to 6,500 Special Olympics athletes from 165 nations competing in 25 Olympic-type sports. It’s a world stage for our athletes to demonstrate on the playing field their courage, determination and spirit of sportsmanship.
“These Games changed the lives of people around the world who are mistreated and excluded because they’re ‘different,’” said Patrick McClenahan, President and Chief Executive Officer of LA2015, the Games Organizing Committee.
The Special Olympics started in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Shriver started the Special Olympics in her back yard in the late 1960s. It started as a summer camp where she would have children with intellectual disabilities participate in sports. Her purpose was to have the children socialize with other children with disabilities.
If you had an intellectual disability in the 1960s, the best thing parents thought they should do for their children was to put them in a group home. Shriver had a sister named Rosemary who had intellectual disabilities. Since Rosemary had a disability, Shriver wanted to help get rid of the stigma of having a disability out of people’s minds. Instead of looking at the disability, she would want others to look at abilities.
The first international Special Olympic Summer Games opened in Chicago, Illinois. In the first games, there were 1,000 people who participated from 26 of the United States and Canada. Currently, there are 4.4 million athletes with disabilities around the world, according to Special Olympics. Unified Sports is a part of the Special Olympics and is a sports team you can be a part of whether or not you have an intellectual disability. There are people who guide the players to play the games in case they do have one.
All in all, having the Special Olympics here in the U.S. has become an extraordinary event. The next Special Olympics will take place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next year.
For people with or without disabilities, the Special Olympics are one of the best opportunities for people to show the world what they are capable of doing. It brings unity and understanding to the world as well as providing athletes a great opportunity to come together and to relate to one another.