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History of the Special Olympics

Updated on July 13, 2013
The USA enters the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony in 2007 in Dublin, Ireland.
The USA enters the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony in 2007 in Dublin, Ireland. | Source

Special Olympics Offer Postive Achievement

For a time, the Special Olympics Summer Games were held at Ohio State University. It was a fantastically big event supported by families, celebrities, and businesses.

As a food service manager, I was in charge of food service for hundreds of meals several ties a day for the athletes and their families. They were so happy to be at OSU and delighted to be offered food. It was hard work and fun to watch the excitement of the competitors and their loved ones.

The Special Olympics and the Paralympics give a sporting chance to people that cannot compete in the Olympic Games because of physical or mental limitations.

However, as we have found that exercise can begin to overcome some of these human obstacles, times are changing. The first male Paralympian crossed over to the Summer Olympic Games in 2012, using carbon-laded running prostheses in London UK. Although South African Oscar Pretorius did not finish at the top of the heap, he finished his races, while the crowds and athletes encouraged him.

From experience, I have seen physically and mentally challenged youth proceed into mainstream classes out of Special Education, with the help of tutors and intensive martial arts classes that exercise the brain as well as the body. A nonspeaking child began to speak in class one night, answering drill commands as loudly as anyone else. The Special Olympics see many of these small miracles every year.

  • Shathi, who now works with autisic children through her government agency, earned two silver and one bronze medal in badminton in the Special Olympics World Summer Games of 2007 in Shanghai, China. She earned another five gold medals in bocce in the 1st Asia Pacific Special Olympics in Brunei in 2009. In the 4th Asia Pacific Special Olympics also held in Brunei in 2012, she won again. See Welcome To Special Olympics Bangladesh

A Person is Not a Diagnosis

I learned the history of Special Olympics and the Paralympic Games through my martial arts and restaurant work and my interest in helping disabled youth.

Rose Marie Kennedy (1918 – 2005) is the reason we have Special Olympics in the 21st Century.

This dear woman was the child Joseph and Rose Kennedy, the parents of President John F. Kennedy. Rose Marie was JFK’s sister who outlived him by 42 years and had been born one year after his own birth. As a child, she was well cared for and kept an intelligent diary. However, she was shy and retiring, and so was diagnosed as mentally retarded. What followed was a tragedy that lasted for long 64 years.

Rose Marie became irritable in puberty and was considered was considered violent because of it. That, along with shyness that was labeled Mental Retardation led her parents to have her lobotomized. This is a surgical procedure in which a small part of the reasoning part of the brain, the cerebrum is cut out and destroyed. A film example is displayed in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Rose Marie became and unresponsive vegetable-like creature for 64 years. Her parents may have been led to believe that the lobotomy was a magical procedure that would cure her, but that is not what they received.

Author Ronald Kessler wrote about this heartbreak in his book The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded (1996). Kessler writes that the doctor that performed the surgery, a Dr. Freeman, performed 3,000+ additional lobotomies and then his MD license was revoked.

While institutionalized since 1949, Rose Marie was visited often from her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Mrs. Shriver founded Special Olympics as a legacy for Rose Marie and the hope that exists for anyone physically or mentally challenged. Mrs. Shriver has dedicated a large portion of her life to helping challenged individuals in order to give them the chance that Rose Marie should have had and never received. Mrs. Shriver and brother Ted Kennedy watched her die at the age of 86, of old age.

This is my favorite part of Special Olympics – the truth that a diagnosis does not need to be who the person is.

Mr. Kessler was able to uncover the truth about Rose Marie from Dr. Bertram Brown. Dr. Brown was Executive Director of the President's Panel on Mental Retardation. He stated that since Rose Marie could perform arithmetic, then she had an IQ of over 75, the threshold for Mental Retardation in public schools at the time. She should have gone to regular school. At only nine years old, the girl correctly solved problems such as 3-digit multiplication and division. Some mainstream classroom 9-year-olds today cannot do those problems.

Dr. Brown, was a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health as well. Brown felt that she may have had a normal IQ of 90 in the range of 90-100 being normal in a family where everyone else had an IQ of 130+. They did not know she was normal and she embarrassed them.

Special Olymics Ireland,
Special Olymics Ireland,
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation to Benefit of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (public domain).
Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation to Benefit of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (public domain).

What Events Are Offered In Special Olympics?

Each state in the union and each different country around the world has its own Special Olympics division with its won sports. Not all sports are performed in all states.

Ohio Special Olymics Training:

  1. Aquatics
  2. Athletics
  3. Basketball
  4. Bowling
  5. Cross Country Skiing
  6. Cycling
  7. Equestrian (Horse Riding)
  8. Figure Skating
  9. Soccer
  10. Golf
  11. Gymnastics (Artistic)
  12. Motor Activities
  13. Powerlifting
  14. Roller Skating
  15. Softball
  16. Speed Skating
  17. Tennis
  18. Volleyball

While the Ohio events do not include martial arts, many martial artists in the state train individals with with challeneges and these folks compete in the Arnold Martial Arts Festival every spring in Columbus, Ohio at the Convention Center. I recently watched a squad of a dozen athletes perform a long demonstration of basic and advanced mocments for the audience several times with determination and without complaint. I wish everyone could see this.

UK Special Olympics offers more events than Ohio:

Aquatics, Alpine Skiing , Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boccia, Bowling, Bowls, Cricket, Cycling, Equestrian, Floor Hockey, Soccer, Golf, Gymnastics, Kayaking, Judo;

MATP - Motor Activities Training Program: Bean bag lift, Ball kick, Wide beam and bench, Ball lift (small and large), Ball push, and Log roll;

Netball, Powerlifting, Sailing, and Softball.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi Deb! - I heard about her a long time ago and became quite sad and angry about it. Then in the 1990s, I learned that local healthcare providers were still using electoshock treatment as well -- one promising college student underwent that treatment for short-term depression and lost her will to accomplish anything. She dropped out and I don't know what she did then.

      I am just so angry about the small-mindedness of those such as a family of higher IQs looking at someone normal and thinking them retarded -- Just like the high school athletes over six feet tall today in my locale beating up those under 6 feet because they feel the "shorter" ones are inferior. Or any prejudice against any demographic. Senseless.

      This is why I get people up out of wheelchairs and out of leg braces whenever I can, and encourage talented youth when the envious around them try to hurt them. It's a small contribution, at best.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I had no idea about Rose Marie. What a tragic story. But through that tragedy something good has come about. Thanks for the insight!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I am thinking that each state has their own event, and I know each contry has one, so maybe we can at least watch this summer. We can make donations on the various websites as well, if able. If not, we can lend them our good wishes.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I've worked with the disabled quite a bit but have never participated with Special Olympics, I think it would be very rewarding. Great hub.

    • Matt Maresca profile image

      Matt Maresca 

      12 years ago from New Jersey

      I never knew that story about Rose Marie Kennedy, very interesting and very sad. It breaks my heart to see people being avoided, abandoned, and treated poorly because of a disability. It's not that person's fault they are disabled. They should be loved every bit as much as anyone else. I applaud the special Olympians for overcoming tremendous obstacles to achieve great things. We can all learn a lot from them.

      Also, let's all make an effort to reach out the next time we meet someone who may need some kind of special attention due to a disadvantage. And remember, we're all human.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      It's a pity the media don't cover it better. They deserved much more attencion.


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