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November 13, 2017
Global search for 2023 Special Olympics World Games host begins

2007 Special Olympics Opening Ceremony in Shanghai, China (Photo Credit: Diego Azubel)

Washington D.C., November 13, 2017 Special Olympics has launched its official process to identify and select a host for the upcoming 2023 Special Olympics World Games. World Games are the centerpiece of the Special Olympics movement and occur every two years, alternating between Summer and Winter Games.

The World Games bid process is open to all Special Olympics Programs around the world in conjunctions with the nation or cities in their location. There are currently 223 Special Olympics national and state Programs globally empowering 5.6 million athletes with and without intellectual disabilties. The first expressions of interest are due back to Special Olympics headquarters by mid-December 2017. A structured process will follow throughout 2018 with the successful bid being ratified and announced in 12 months’ time (November 2018) by the Special Olympics International Board of Directors.

Lou Lauria, Special Olympics Global Chief of Games and Competition, said the World Games generate significant interest among prospective hosts given the unique offering that Special Olympics represents.

“Few events have the social impact of the Special Olympics World Games,” said Lauria. “The World Games are about more than sports. They’re about humanity. The Special Olympics World Games provide a robust, high profile platform for a host city to achieve a range of social objectives ranging from social inclusion, health, education, and sport.

“Governments now understand that sporting events must be evaluated to see how they align with their overall objectives in order to deliver a sustainable legacy,” added Lauria. “The Special Olympic World Games are a global sporting event that meet this criteria.”

At the most recent Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, more than 6,200 athletes from 165 countries competed in 25 sports. With nearly 2,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and an estimated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Games set records for participation and enthusiastic fans in the stands. Millions more tuned in remotely, watching the Games nightly on ESPN, ABC-TV and TV networks in more than 190 countries around the world. 1,200 media from around the world descended on Los Angeles for these Games.

The LA2015 Games also broke awareness records for the Special Olympics movement, racking up 20 billion impressions in many media channels worldwide. The scale of the Games was enhanced by high-profile corporate partners -- including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Bank of America and Toyota -- whose video and commercial tie-ins starring Special Olympics athletes brought even more attention preceding, during and after the event.

(Photo: Special Olympics)

While Special Olympics competitions happen locally around the world every day, with more than 100,000 events taking place annually, it is the World Games that leave the biggest and most inspiring legacy for the athletes who participate and especially the host nations.

Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics International and son of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, says he’s seen first-hand how – for the cities, states and nations who host the Games – Special Olympics can positively transform their society. “From China to Greece, from Ireland to Korea and beyond, each host country that embraces these Games shows the world their recognition of the value of every human being.”

He added, “We’ve seen over and over again how the World Games are proven to trigger positive societal changes in ending discrimination and breaking down fear of difference.” Shriver recalls how the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai marked a turning point in the China’s attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities.

Smaller in scale than World Summer Games, the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria involved 2,600 athletes from 105 countries competing in nine sports. The recent 2017 Games turned out to be hugely successful. The Opening Ceremony alone reached millions of viewers in more than 190 countries, marking the broadest reach ever for a World Winter Games Opening Ceremony.

“It was wonderful to see that we all can change the world to be a better and more inclusive place when we treat each other respectfully and most importantly: have fun together,” said Austria’s Federal Minister of Social Affairs Alois Stöger.

The next World Games are set for March 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). UAE is breaking new ground as the first to host Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East/North Africa Region.

Learn more about the Special Olympics World Games by contacting Lou Lauria, Global Chief of Games and Competition, at For information about Special Olympics, please visit

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