Special Olympics GB athletes campaign

Our special bond with the Special Olympics

Revisiting the long history of Coca‑Cola and Special Olympics

Time. Effort. Passion. From the athletes to the coaches, the fundraisers and local supporters, the Special Olympics movement requires a true commitment to succeed. And since it first began in 1968 in Chicago, The Coca‑Cola Company has been right behind the year-round sports training and competition programme.

When Special Olympics GB came to Great Britain in 1978, Coca‑Cola Great Britain was on hand to extend the partnership already begun in the US.

Today, the organisation is more than 8,000-strong and helping athletes with intellectual disabilities all across Great Britain. The local clubs are run by volunteers, who help them develop their social and life skills.

Through our annual funding we cover vital running costs, but our support goes further than that, as our employees invest personal time with fundraising and running local Special Olympics sports clubs.

We’re also getting more people involved with the great work Special Olympics GB does through its Unified Sports programme which sees people with and without intellectual disabilities play together on the same teams. It’s a great way to break down barriers and promote friendships and inclusion through fitness and fun.

Timeline: The history of the Special Olympics

  • June 1962 Eunice Kennedy Shriver starts a summer day camp for children and adults with intellectual disabilities

  • July 1968 The first Special Olympics is held at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois

  • December 1971 Special Olympics approved by the US Olympics Committee

  • February 1977 The first International Special Olympics Winter Games is held in Colorado

  • September 1986 The United Nations in New York launches the International Year of Special Olympics

  • February 1988 The International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially endorses and recognises Special Olympics, authorising the games to use the word 'Olympics' in its title

  • March 1993 The 5th Special Olympics World Winter Games are hosted in Austria, the first World Winter Games held outside the US

  • June 2003 Ireland hosts the first Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held outside the US, in which 5,500 athletes participate

  • October 2007 Over 7,500 athletes from 164 countries gather in Shanghai, China, for the 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games, which are broadcast internationally on an unprecedented scale

  • July 2008 The Special Olympics celebrates its 40th anniversary with almost three million athletes in more than 180 countries around the world

  • July 2009 The Special Olympics National Summer Games are held in Leicester, Great Britain

  • June 2011 The 13th Special Olympics World Summer Games take place in Athens, Greece, with athletes from more than 180 nations taking part

  • June 2013 We celebrate 35 years of partnership between Coca‑Cola and Special Olympics GB

  • August 2013 More than 1,700 British athletes of all ages and abilities meet in Bath to participate in the Special Olympics National Summer Games, with support from the Coca‑Cola Foundation. Watch our short film from the event here:

Delivering a legacy

Partnering with Special Olympics is just one of the ways we’re supporting the next generation of athletes and doing our part to get everyone involved in sport. 

Find your nearest Special Olympics club at http://www.specialolympicsgb.org.uk.