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Throughout the year Special Olympics athletes have the opportunity to take part in local and regional competitions. National Games are held every 4 years. Participation in all competitions is optional.

Athletes are encouraged to train and possibly apply to compete in the National Games as well as in European and World Summer and Winter Games. Each take place every 4 years.

The Special Olympics competition programme is non elite and is open to all abilities thanks to an inclusive divisioning system which offers athletes with intellectual (learning) disabilities the opportunity to compete among those with similar ability.  

Any Special Olympics athlete from the age of eight has the opportunity to take part in local, regional, national and international level Special Olympics competitions in a variety of 28 sports.


Inclusive competition pathway

The pathway for Special Olympics athletes to compete is extremely fair, with an athlete not being able to compete without having competed in previous levels. For example an athlete cannot take part at a national competition without having competed in local and regional events first.

A unique banding system

Special Olympics uses a system of ‘divisioning’ that is almost unique in the sporting world. Divisioning groups athletes with similar levels of performance together for competition, giving people of all abilities opportunities for success and achievement.

Each athlete has to complete a minimum of 26 weeks of sports training before being eligible to take part in a competition.

Special Olympics is so much more than competitions and games - it is a family.

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