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Paralympics are not Special Olympics

Wheelchair racers speeding to victory, blind swimmers competing for gold, and disabled skiers pushing their bodies to the limit. These are today's Paralympians. They train hard. They play to win. And in recent years, Canadians have been winning big at the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics began as a postwar sporting event designed to get injured ex-soldiers moving again. But by the 1980s the Games had evolved into an elite international competition.

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A lot of people get the Paralympics and the Special Olympics mixed up. But the differences are significant, explains reporter Teddy Katz in this clip from The Inside Track. The Paralympics are a highly competitive event. Elite disabled athletes play to win at these Games. Records are kept.
The Special Olympics, on the other hand, are for people with intellectual disabilities. The emphasis is on participation and fun, rather than high-level competition.

The organizers of both events aren't very happy about this confusion, explains Katz. "The big problem is that they have to go and market themselves," he says. Both organizations work hard to attract media attention and sponsorship opportunities, says Katz, and the confusion between the two events makes this endeavour more difficult.
. The Special Olympics were started in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of president John F. Kennedy. Their other sister Rose had been mentally retarded, so the Kennedy clan was extremely dedicated to helping the mentally disabled. Eunice Kennedy Shriver had opened a camp for people with mental retardation in the early 1960s. She was struck by how well the campers performed in sports, so she decided to put together a nationwide sporting program.

. At the first Special Olympics in 1968, 1,000 mentally retarded athletes from 26 states competed in track and field, aquatics and floor hockey.

. The Special Olympics World Winter Games and World Summer Games take place every four years in different cities around the world. These don't coincide with the timing or location of the Olympics and the Paralympics. For example, the World Winter Games took place in 1993, 1997 and 2001 and the World Summer Games took place in 1995, 1999 and 2003.

. The term "Special Olympics" encompasses more than just those winter and summer world games. Special Olympics also refers to the general year-round training program for children and adults with mental retardation. And there are numerous Special Olympics events held every year throughout the year, including national games and various tournaments for specific sports.
. The Special Olympics is a non-profit organization that relies on a lot of volunteer support.

. Today (2004), more than one million people with intellectual disabilities in 150 countries take part in the Special Olympics.

. In 1988, the IOC "officially recognized" the Special Olympics. It is the only organization that the IOC has given permission to use the word "Olympics" in its name.
. Because the Paralympics and the Olympics take place one after another in the same city, the IOC has a closer working relationship with the IPC than with the Special Olympics.
Medium: Radio
Program: The Inside Track
Broadcast Date: March 1, 1998
Host: Robin Brown
Reporter: Teddy Katz
Duration: 5:43

Last updated: December 23, 2014

Page consulted on December 23, 2014

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