Special Olympics: 10 Interesting Facts | NBC Southern California

Special Olympics: 10 Interesting Facts

Celebrate the World Games in Los Angeles by learning a bit about the games' history.

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    The Special Olympics World Games open in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 25. Learn more about how this popular and beloved gathering of athletes came to be. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)

    The Special Olympics and the Special Olympics World Games are a widely known, much followed, much loved show of sportsmanship and skill and camaraderie and commitment.

    And while Southern California is hosting the 2015 summer World Games, where spectators will see "the power of 6,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities competing to be champions of their sports," some spectators new to the Special Olympics might not know the full story behind the games, or at least some of the details of its epic, decades-long unfolding.

    Here are ten tidbits about the joyous show of athletic prowess that's set to captivate Los Angeles for a week and the larger world as well...

    1. While the World Games gain much deserved attention, Special Olympics oversees "over 90,000 events a year worldwide," from golf tourneys to soccer games.

    2. A summer day camp was the start of what would grow to be a globe-spanning phenomenon. Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the camp took place in Mrs. Shriver's own backyard where morning calisthenics were the first order of the day.

    3. Some 50 volunteers worked at the 1962 summer camp at the Shriver residence.

    4. That number has grown exponentially over the years. Today "we have more than 1 million coaches and volunteers..." reveals the organization.

    5. And they work around the planet. There are over 226 host sites to the Special Olympics encompassing over 170 countries in all.

    6. How old should you be to participate in the Special Olympics? The start age is 8, though there is a Special Olympics Young Athletes program, where tots as young as 2 join in.

    7. The competitions have a moving oath, and it is this: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

    8. That oath is far-reaching: "Over 4.4 million athletes with intellectual disabilities are involved in Special Olympics programs around the world."

    9. What are the most popular sports in the Special Olympics? The organization says athletics, football (soccer), basketball, bocce, and bowling top the roster.

    10. With millions of athletes and over a million volunteers and coaches, fans of the Special Olympics have many competitions to look forward to cheering on over the course of a year. In 2013 there were, around the globe, over 81,000 competitions in all.

    Support these fantastic athletes as they take to the fields, courts, and pools during the Special Olympics World Games: Los Angeles 2015. The games are on from July 25 through Aug. 2 at points around Southern California.

    Need a handy Spectator Guide? There's one full of helpful tips for where to go, what to bring, and more.

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