Our History

The Special Olympics Movement was founded in the USA in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of President John F Kennedy.

Shriver believed that the Olympic ideals of sport could give confidence and new hope to people with intellectual disabilities (learning disabilities) as well as to those who cared for them.

Today Special Olympics reaches over 5.7million athletes in more than 200 countries worldwide.

The Birth of Special Olympics in Great Britain

Chris Maloney MBE founded Special Olympics in Great Britain (then known as Special Olympics UK) in 1978.

Chris had been teaching swimming to people with intellectual disabilities since the early 1960s. In 1976, after reading a book entitled Times to Remember by Rose Kennedy (mother of John F. Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy Shriver), Chris sent a letter about his work to the author, who passed it on to her daughter Eunice.

Eunice Shriver enlisted Chris Maloney to develop the Special Olympics programme in Great Britain and with help from Sir Hugh Fraser and Sir Eldon Griffiths (then Minister for Sport), he paved the way for a legacy of support for Special Olympics across Scotland, England and Wales. 

Special Olympics in the UK was one of the first European programmes of the international Special Olympics Movement.

Today, Special Olympics GB serves 6,500 athletes, 3,500 volunteers in 95 accredited programmes across Great Britain.