Our Challenge, Our Solution.
Our Impact

This year, Special Olympics saw more activity and involvement than at any time in our history. Exciting trends include:

EXTENDING OUR REACH: In 2016, Special Olympics grew to 5.7 million Special Olympics athletes and Unified Sports teammates in 172 countries. Over the last decade, in fact, Special Olympics has nearly doubled the number of athletes who are experiencing the transformative power of sport every day, around the world.

EXPANDING SPORTS OFFERINGS: Special Olympics held more competitions and events than ever: 108,821 throughout the year. These expanded offerings – averaging nearly 300 competitions per day – happened during a non-World Games year, proving again how Special Olympics is truly year-round.

IMPROVING ATHLETE HEALTH: This year alone, our health experts conducted more than 150,000 free screenings around the world. These events bring health care and attention to those who need it most – often for the very first time. To date, more than 1.9 million Healthy Athletes screenings have been given in more than 135 countries.

CREATING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES: As the world’s largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities (ID), Special Olympics continues to lead the push for inclusive health systems and policies.

If the whole world were like Special Olympics, there would be no wars. This movement brings out the best in everybody.
Linda Smrokowski, parent of a Longtime Special Olympics athlete

EMBRACING FAMILIES: As of 2016, our family network is more than a half-million strong (627,452) worldwide. This includes 23,358 Family Leaders, our most passionate advocates for social inclusion and justice for people with ID.

ENGAGING YOUTH: This year marks an 17% jump in the number of young people inspired to lead our global call for unity. Special Olympics is now powered by the energy of 53,091 Youth Leaders (ages 12-25) in every region of the world.

UNIFYING THE WORLD: The path to unity starts with Unified Sports – and this year brought together a record-breaking 1.4 million teammates, with and without ID. They are playing together, learning from each other, and creating a more welcoming world for all.

These successes can only inspire us to do more. That’s why, in 2016, Special Olympics began charting a new course: a five-year Global Strategic Plan that will take us to the next decade – and beyond.

With this roadmap, we are rededicating ourselves to building a world where health and fitness are gifts offered equally to all people with ID; where people with ID are given the chance to lead both on the playing field and off; where every child grows up learning to play unified and live unified.

This is a joyful challenge, but an urgent one. Now is the time to Unite and Change the Game -- for everyone.

Will you join our joyful revolution? Will you #ChooseToInclude?

One Athlete's Story
Ruben Full Picture
Ruben has been a Special Olympics athlete as long as he can remember. Before then, he lived a life defined by the lowest expectations. Until he was 7, Ruben spent his days and nights locked in a chicken coop, isolated and alone. His family wanted nothing to do with a child with intellectual disabilities. His siblings lived at home and went to school. But Ruben’s parents decided he was not capable of learning – nor was he worth their time or care. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) face abuse and stigma everywhere in the world: Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. Ruben’s cage was located in the state of Texas, USA.

Ruben was considered beyond hope. But today, his is a very different story. The rejected boy who had no smile or words now has both in abundance. He works at a restaurant. He lives in a group home. He is independent. And, in the words of his adopted mom, “He’s learned everything through Special Olympics.”

Ruben is just one athlete whose life has been turned around. This year, Special Olympics' global reach has expanded to 5 million athletes! Through sports, children and adults with ID are learning vital social, physical and adaptive skills. Like Ruben, they are revealing new strengths and abilities, gaining confidence, and changing attitudes about people with ID every day, around the world.

Questions about the new online Annual Report? Suggestions? Email kmckenna@specialolympics.org.