Special Olympics International
Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of the late US President, John F Kennedy. Eunice had a sister, Rosemary, with an intellectual disability. She realised that there were very limited opportunities available to her sister and set out to remedy this. In 1962 she started to hold annual summer sports camps in the grounds of her house. From this small beginning she created the worldwide organisation that Special Olympics is today. Eunice died in August 2009, aged 88, and her son, Dr Tim Shriver, is now Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics International.
Special Olympics is recognised as the third member of the Olympic movement and is a separate organisation to the Paralympics. It is open to people with all levels of sporting ability who have an intellectual (learning) disability.
Special Olympics GB
Special Olympics GB (SOGB) was formed in 1978. It is the country’s largest provider of year round sports training and competition for children and adults with learning disabilities. Unlike the Olympic and Paralympic Games, SOGB receives no government funding. It relies on sponsorship, grants and donations of money and time from volunteers. There are currently 140 Special Olympic groups in Great Britain run by over 4,000 volunteers. Over 10,000 athletes benefit from the sports programme.
The Sharks Swimming Club became involved with SOGB in 2000 under the name of Orpington Sharks. Orpington Sharks became an accredited branch of the Special Olympics Great Britain and a member of the Special Olympics South East Region.
The National Summer Games are held every four years. We previously took a team to Cardiff in 2001, Glasgow in 2005, Leicester in 2009 and Bath in 2013. Each time the swimmers have returned with an impressive collection of medals.
In August 2017, 15 members of the Sharks Swimming Club, who are also members of Orpington Sharks, attended the Special Olympics National Summer Games in Sheffield. Torrential rain during the Opening Ceremony did not dampen their enthusiasm and they went on to win 5 gold, 10 silver and 7 bronze medals. They also achieved 20 personal best times.