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Special Olympics European Youth Games

Special Olympics is not the same as the Paralympics

Often the two are confused, but they are actually very different and follow these guidelines:

  • Special Olympics is only for people with an intellectual disability. The Paralympics is mainly for athletes with physical disabilities.
  • Special Olympics welcomes all participants regardless of their skill level. The Paralympics is for elite athletes only.
  • Special Olympics provides year-round training and competition. We give athletes the chance to compete at local, regional, state, national and international competition. The Paralympics holds one international competition every four years.
  • Special Olympics is the only organisation allowed by the International Olympic Committee to use the word "Olympics".


We also pride ourselves on being different from many other sports organisations, in these ways:

  • Special Olympics offers a variety of different sports.
  • During competition, athletes are grouped by ability to provide fair competition. This is called divisioning.
  • All participating athletes receive an award.
  • Athletes advance to higher levels of competition based on participation and achievement, not the fastest times or best results.




Special Olympics European Youth Games Rome 2006 - © 2005