SOTX History & Timeline
June 1963 - Eunice Kennedy Shriver starts a summer day camp for children and adults with intellectual disabilities at her home in Maryland to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities.
July 1968 - Together with the Chicago Park District, the Kennedy Foundation plans and underwrites the First International Special Olympics Summer Games, held at Chicago’s Soldier Field with 1,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 26 U.S. states and Canada competing in athletics, floor hockey and aquatics.
December 1968 - Special Olympics is established as a not-for-profit charitable organization under the laws of the District of Columbia. The National Association for Retarded Citizens, the Council for Exceptional Children and the American Association on Mental Deficiency pledge their support for this first systematic effort to provide sports training and athletic competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities based on the Olympic tradition and spirit.
June 1969 - Special Olympics gets its start in Texas, within the recreation division of the Texas Association for Retarded Citizens (TARC). The first Summer Games is held at Paul Tyson Stadium in Waco, with 350 athletes competing in 10 track and field events.
August 1970 - The Second International Special Olympics Summer Games takes place in Chicago, Illinois with 2,000 athletes from all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, France, and Puerto Rico.
August 1972 - The Third International Special Olympics Summer Games takes place at the University of California – Los Angeles with 2,500 participants.
June 1974 - Special Olympics Texas moves the Summer Games to the University of Texas at Austin, the home of the competition for the 15 consecutive years and 18 years total. More than 1,400 athletes compete in the event.
August 1975 - The Fourth International Special Olympics Summer Games takes place at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan with 3,200 athletes from 10 countries taking part. The Games are broadcast nationwide on CBS-TV’s Sports Spectacular.
February 1977 - The First International Special Olympics Winter Games is held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with more than 500 athletes competing in skiing and skating events. The CBS, ABC and NBC television networks cover the Games.
1978 - Special Olympics Texas establishes non-profit status.
August 1979 - The Fifth International Special Olympics Summer Games takes place at the State University of New York at Brockport with more than 3,500 athletes from every state in the United States and more than 20 countries.
1980-1981 - Special Olympics launches a training and certification program for coaches and publishes the first Sports Skills Guide.
March 1981 - The Second International Special Olympics Winter Games is held at the Village of Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe, Vermont with more than 600 Alpine and cross-country skiers and ice skaters participating.
July 1983 - The Sixth International Special Olympics Summer Games is held at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A crowd of more than 60,000 attends the Opening Ceremonies and approximately 4,000 athletes participate.
June 1985 - The Law Enforcement Torch Run in Texas begins, when a small group of Houston police officers carries a Special Olympics torch to the Houston city limits and gives it to a group from the Bexar County Mounted Patrol. The county officers on horseback carry the torch to Austin to help open the Summer Games.
March 1985 - Athletes from 14 countries are represented in skiing and skating events at the Third International Special Olympics Winter Games in Park City, Utah.
1986 - The Athlete Leadership Program (ALPs) launches. ALPs gives individuals with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to stand up and let their voices be heard, as well as teaches them the leadership skills to help shape the direction and movement of Special Olympics. These programs put athletes in an environment where people listen to them and value them as individuals.
September 1986 - The International Year of Special Olympics, culminating in the 1987 International Special Olympics Summer Games, launches at the United Nations in New York City under the banner "Special Olympics - Uniting the World."
July 1987 - More than 30,000 law enforcement officers from every state in the United States and seven countries run 26,000 miles in the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics. The Torch Run raises more than $2 million.
August 1987 - The University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana, host the Seventh International Special Olympics Summer Games. More than 4,700 athletes from more than 70 countries participate in 1987’s largest amateur sports event. The Games are covered in Sports Illustrated and Time, and reach more than 150 million people worldwide.
October 1987 - Jimmy and Vicki Iovine of A&M Records and Bobby Shriver produce A Very Special Christmas, featuring holiday music performed by top pop chart music performers, with all album proceeds benefiting Special Olympics Programs worldwide.
1988 - The Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) launches. MATP is for athletes who cannot compete in official Special Olympics sports because they cannot physically perform movements or cannot follow the rules due to cognitive or behavioral limitations. The focus of MATP is on training and participation, rather than competition.
February 1988 - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) signs an historic agreement officially recognizing Special Olympics.
July 1988 - Special Olympics Unified Sports™ is launched at the annual Special Olympics Conference in Reno, Nevada.
April 1989 - The Fourth International Special Olympics Winter Games is held in Reno, Nevada, and Lake Tahoe, California. More than 1,000 athletes from 18 countries participate.
February 1990 - ABC-TV’s Life Goes On, the first prime-time television drama starring an actor with intellectual disabilities, devotes an hour-long episode to Special Olympics.
February 1990 - Sargent Shriver announces the historic decision by the former Soviet Union to join the Special Olympics movement. Special Olympics is the first charitable organization to implement such a program at local and national levels in the former Soviet Union.
July 1990 - The Third European Special Olympics Summer Games is held in Strathclyde, Scotland. Thirty European countries are represented by 2,400 athletes participating in eight official and five demonstration sports.
January 1991 - Expanding its statewide competition opportunities in 1991, Texas adds the Winter Games, held in Houston.
July 1991 - The Eighth Special Olympics World Summer Games* is held in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Six-thousand athletes from more than 100 countries make this Games the largest sporting event in the world in 1991. (*The official name changes in 1991 from International Games to Special Olympics World Summer or World Winter Games.)
September 1992 - Special Olympics kicks off its 25th Anniversary Celebration - "Together We Win" - at the United Nations in New York City, where the 25th Anniversary Traveling Exhibit is officially launched before beginning a nationwide tour.
March 1993 - The Fifth Special Olympics World Winter Games is held in Salzburg and Schladming, Austria, with 1,600 athletes from more than 50 countries participating in five winter sports. These are the First World Winter Games held outside North America.
1995 - Special Olympics Inc. and Yale University conduct a landmark study of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. The results of the study show the benefits of participation in Special Olympics as enhancing social competence and adaptive skills, building positive self-perception and improving work performance, while encouraging independence and offering real physical benefits.
July 1995 - More than 7,000 athletes from 143 countries gather in New Haven, Connecticut, for competition in 21 sports at the Ninth Special Olympics World Summer Games.
January 1997 - Healthy Athletes becomes an official Special Olympics initiative providing healthcare services to Special Olympics athletes worldwide.
February 1997 - Nearly 2,000 athletes from 73 countries compete in five Olympic-type winter sports in Toronto/Collingwood, Ontario, Canada, for the Sixth Special Olympics World Winter Games. This event is the world’s largest winter multi-sport event in 1997.
1998 - While celebrating the 30th anniversary of the movement in 1998, the organization undergoes an official name change from Texas Special Olympics to Special Olympics Texas, Inc.
July 1998 - Special Olympics celebrates 30 years of heroes with the introduction of twelve 30th Anniversary Global Messengers.
December 1998 - U.S. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton host a Christmas concert at the White House entitled "A Very Special Christmas from Washington D.C." - to celebrate Special Olympics’ 30th anniversary. The event marks the first time a U.S. President has hosted a Special Olympics gala at the White House. It is also the first time that artists from the successful A Very Special Christmas album series gather to perform together.
June/July 1999 - The 10th Special Olympics World Summer Games is held in the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area (Triangle) in North Carolina. More than 7,000 athletes representing 150 countries compete in 19 sports.
January 2000 - ABC-TV’s The Wonderful World of Disney presents The Loretta Claiborne Story, the first prime-time television movie about the life of a Special Olympics athlete.
May 2000 - The Special Olympics China Millennium March takes place throughout China. Special Olympics China declares it will increase the current number of Special Olympics athletes from 50,000 to 500,000 by 2005.
May 2000 - The first-ever Global Athlete Congress takes place in The Hague, the Netherlands. Sixty athletes from every region of the world come together to discuss the future of the Special Olympics movement.
December 2000 - U.S. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton host A Very Special Christmas from Washington, D.C. Christmas concert at the White House to celebrate the "Spirit of Special Olympics."
March 2001 - More than 1,800 athletes representing approximately 70 countries compete in seven Olympic-type winter sports at the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Anchorage, Alaska. The Games are the largest event ever held in the history of Alaska.
March 2001 - The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations conducts a public hearing, chaired by Senator Ted Stevens, on promoting health for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics presents a special report, The Health Status and Needs of Individuals with Mental Retardation, identifying actions to improve the quality and length of life of persons with intellectual disabilities. A panel of distinguished speakers in the fields of intellectual disabilities, health care and physical fitness testify.
March 2001 - The first-ever Global Youth Summit is held in conjunction with the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Thirty-four students with and without intellectual disabilities from around the world work in pairs to report on the Games and discuss how to overcome the attitudes and stereotypes that youth with intellectual disabilities face.
July 2001 - Special Olympics African Hope 2001 is held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Sun City, South Africa. Former President Nelson Mandela, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Special Olympics athletes light the "Flame of Hope" on Robben Island, followed by the world’s largest Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics through the streets of Cape Town. African Hope 2001 launches a major growth campaign to reach 100,000 new Special Olympics athletes throughout Africa by 2005.
October 2001 - Special Olympics Texas adds its third statewide competition, the Fall Classic. More than 1,000 athletes compete in five sports at the world-class facilities at Texas A&M University and surrounding area venues. Also, the Law Enforcement Torch Run volunteers break a record by raising more than $2 million dollars.
October 2001 - Special Olympics Get Into It™ (SO Get Into It), a new K-12 service-learning curriculum, is developed by Special Olympics and available at no cost to schools and teachers worldwide. SO Get Into It teaches young people about intellectual disabilities while empowering them to “be the difference,” by learning values of inclusion, acceptance and respect.
December 2001 - U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher holds a conference in Washington, D.C., to address the disparities in health care experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. It is the first conference of its kind to address the medical discrimination and neglect of people with intellectual disabilities, as well as their lack of access to affordable, quality health care.
December 2001 - U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush host a Christmas dinner at the White House to celebrate the "Spirit of Special Olympics."
February 2002 - U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher releases A National Blueprint to Improve the Health of People with Intellectual Disabilities, the first government report to bring this issue to the forefront and promote actions to remedy it.
March 2002 - Under the theme “E.T. and Special Olympics Celebrate Differences,” the Universal Studios - Special Olympics partnership communicates the messages of acceptance, tolerance, and diversity. E.T. carries the torch for Special Olympics and invites people around the world to log on to www.ET20.com and become an E.T. Torchbearer to help carry the message through a variety of ways - school activities, contribution possibilities and volunteer opportunities.
July 2002 - The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund partners with Special Olympics to host an annual birthday celebration for its founder and chairperson, former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela. In alignment with the theme, "Unified Sports and Intellectual Disability," Special Olympics athletes participate in non-competitive, Unified Sports™ activities with children from the Children’s Fund at the Polokwane Stadium in South Africa. This event is the first-ever publicly celebrated birthday event for Mandela.
June 2003 - The Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities results are released in Belfast, Northern Ireland; presented as part of the 2003 Scientific Symposium, held in association with the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Commissioned by Special Olympics, the two-year study is the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted on this subject, reporting how people across the world view the roles and capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities in the workplace, the classroom and in daily social life.
June 2003 - The 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games is held in Dublin, Ireland - the first Summer Games ever held outside the United States. The world's largest sporting event for 2003 features 7,000 athletes from more than 150 countries participating in 21 sports. The Texas delegation includes 56 athletes, who compete in 12 sports, and 13 coaches.
June 2003 - Sargent Shriver retires as Chairman of Special Olympics. Tim Shriver is named Chairman and CEO.
2004 - In response to a call from our athletes and the growing social unacceptability of the term “mental retardation” around the world, Special Olympics adopts the term “intellectual disabilities” when referring to the people whom we serve.
May 2004 - FIBA Europe and Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia sign a partnership agreement to develop basketball for players with intellectual disabilities. Through the partnership, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia aims to bring opportunities to 15,000 new players by 2006.
July 2004 - More than 60 campers with intellectual disabilities discover the opportunities and experiences of participating in a sports camp program at the home of Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Potomac, Maryland (USA). Camp Shriver 2004, evoking memories of the first Camp Shrivers in the 1960s, permits these campers to realize their potential, develop physical fitness and experience the joys and friendships that come from camp.
October 2004 - U.S. President George W. Bush signs the 'Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004,' which authorizes $15 million per year over five years in funding for the growth of Special Olympics and initiatives that foster greater understanding and respect for people with intellectual disabilities. The signing marks the first time ever that support for Special Olympics has been secured through authorizing legislation.
February/March 2005 - More than 1,800 Special Olympics athletes from 80 countries compete in the Eighth Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. This event marks the first time the Special Olympics World Winter Games are held in Asia. Justin Horton, Kristen Lyons and Tekla Petecki made the Lone Star State and their country proud, earning gold, silver and 7th place respectively after skating their compulsory and free skate programs.
March 2005 - Texas is among the states selected to run a pilot program for Young Athletes, a sports play program designed to introduce children ages two to seven to the world of physical activity.
June 2005 - The second Global Athlete Congress takes place in Panama. Seventy-eight athletes from more than 35 countries come together to discuss the future of the Special Olympics movement.
December 2005 - Fox Searchlight releases The Ringer, a Farrelly Brothers film about Special Olympics that uses humor to challenge negative stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities. The movie was filmed in Texas in 2004 at various sites in Austin and San Marcos. Special Olympics Texas athletes, volunteers, coaches and staff played a crucial role in the filming, acting as production liaisons, movie extras and movie stars.
July 2006 - The first-ever Special Olympics USA National Games is held in Ames, Iowa. Special Olympics Texas sends a delegation of more than 135 athletes and coaches.
October 2006 - Three Special Olympics Texas athletes travel to Shanghai in October 2006 to compete in the Special Olympics Shanghai Invitational Games. Myles Barman of Plano, Paul Holland of Shady Shores and Hillary Kern of Houston join 21 athletes from across the United States for the Games.
October 2007 - Sixty Texas athletes compete in the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai, the People’s Republic of China. Captain Hector Leal of the Harlingen Police Department represents Texas in the Torch Run Final Leg.
October 2008 - Special Olympics Texas and the Texas Law Enforcement Torch Run host the 2008 International Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference in Dallas.
July 2008 - Special Olympics, Inc. marks its 40th anniversary as a true global movement, with almost 3 million athletes in more than 180 countries around the world.
February 2009 - The Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho draws nearly 2,000 athletes from close to 100 countries. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited and declared special needs advocacy "a civil rights movement." Four Special Olympics Texas athletes participate as part of Team USA.
May 2009 - The U.S. National Portrait Gallery unveils a historic portrait of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. This historic painting is the first portrait the Gallery has ever commissioned of an individual who has not served as a U.S. President or First Lady.
June 2009 - Special Olympics Texas, Inc. celebrates its 40th anniversary.
August 11, 2009 - The founder of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, dies at her family home in Massachusetts. Letters and messages celebrating her contribution to humanity pour in from people and world leaders from around the world.
July 2010 - One-hundred fifty-two Texas athletes, accompanied by 39 coaches, compete in the 2010 U.S.A. National Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. TDCJ Senior Warden Eric Guerrero of the Segovia/Lopez Complex represents Texas in the Torch Run Final Leg.
August 2010 - Special Olympics Texas is one of eight programs in the nation to be awarded a high activation grant from the U.S. Department of Education in the amount of $285,000 to fund Project UNIFY - Meet in the Middle. The funds will be used to build inclusive environments in more than 125 schools throughout the state.
July 2011 - Thirty-five Texas athletes compete in the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. Sergeant Lance Koppa of the Highland Park Department of Public Safety represents Texas in the Torch Run Final Leg.
September 2011 - HB 1481, the Respectful Language bill, becomes law. Under the law, the Texas Legislature and the Texas Legislative Council are directed to avoid using – and to change any existing laws – that use terms and phrases that can be considered disrespectful or demeaning to persons with disabilities.
October 2012 - Long-time SOTX coach Don Wolf is named a top-three finalist as Special Olympics North America’s Coach of the Year.
December 2012 - The release of two musical albums marks the 25th anniversary of the “A Very Special Christmas” holiday music series. The series is the single most successful benefit recording series in musical history, generating more than $100 million in royalties to benefit Special Olympics.
January 2013 - Two Team Texas figure skating athletes (Cory Gentry and Alex Miller) compete in the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
September 2013 - Ceremonial groundbreaking for new statewide headquarters.
December 2013 - Special Olympics Texas reaches 51,319 total athletes for the year, a record for the state.
May 2014 - Construction begins on new statewide headquarters.
June 2014 - Special Olympics Texas celebrates its 45th year.
June 2014 - 124 athletes, accompanied by 33 coaches, compete in the 2014 USA Games in New Jersey. Officer Jeramey Miller of the Westworth Village Police Department represents Texas in the Law Enforcement Final Leg.
December 2014 - Special Olympics Texas reaches 53,446 total athletes for the year, a record for the state.
2015 - The Texas Law Enforcement Torch Run marks 30 years of fundraising and advocating for Special Olympics Texas athletes.
May 2015 - Texas Governor Greg Abbott signs SB 272, which gives Texans the ability to donate to Special Olympics Texas and honor first responders while they are registering their vehicles online. Law Enforcement Torch Run members are instrumental in convincing the Texas Legislature to pass the legislation.
June 2015 - Newly constructed statewide headquarters officially opens.
July 2015 - 14 athletes, four head coaches, two coaches, a Unified Partner and a technical delegate from Texas compete for Team USA in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
December 2015 - Special Olympics Texas reaches 55,232 athletes for the year, a record for the state.
April 2016 - Six Dallas-area Special Olympics Texas golfers travel to Macau to compete in the Special Olympics Golf Masters Tournament.
May 2016 - Special Olympics Texas rolls out its Food for Fitness nutritional program to educate athletes on how consuming healthful foods can fuel their bodies to be the best athletes they can be.
January 2017 - Special Olympics Texas announces the results of a landmark study of Texas families and Special Olympics Texas athletes. The study is the largest of its kind in the world.
March 2017 - Dallas-area figure skater Ian Rawn represents the United States in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Austria.
April 2018 - SOTX Welcomes the new leadership of CEO Tim Martin.
July 2018 - SOTX was represented at the Unified Cup as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Special Olympics Inc. Athletes from combined FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo Unified teams Competition was held at Toyota Field in Chicago, IL.
July 2018 - USA Games Team Texas sent 150 athletes, 38 coaches, 11 traditional sports and 5 Unified sports were represented in Seattle, Washington
May 2019 - A brand-new collaboration is created with Morgan's Wonderland, hosting a record-breaking Summer Games at the venue in the summer of 2020.
May 2019 - Unified becomes a core focus at SOTX, including the beginning stages of an all-new agreement with UIL.
March 2020 - In response to shelter in place and COVID-19, a digital platform made just for SOTX athletes and SOTX community members is created. It is called S.O.Connected.
December 2020 - By the end of 2020, Special Olympics Texas' media channels, using the S.O.Connected platform, have amassed 229,713 views from March to December.
May 2021 - Celebrity Matthew McConaughey wishes SOTX athletes good luck in the USA Games Team Texas drawing for the USA Games 2022 in Orlando, Florida.
July 2021 - Record breaking Texas Roadhouse and grant funding at all time high during on and off pause on return to play/COVID-19 safety protocols.
September 2021 - CEO Tim Martin, working alongside the Mitigation Committee, announces modified, safety-first return to play.
November 2022 - Texas set to become host to the LETR national convention.