Athletes Gear up For 2011 Special Olympics

The XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games kick off June 25 in Athens, Greece, with an opening ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium. The 2011 Games run until July 4, with athletes from 185 nations competing over the two-week period.

Founded in 1968 by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics allow individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in and enjoy sporting events with their peers. While athletes have the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics events year-round, the World Games occur every two years, alternating between summer and winter Games.

Volleyball and beach volleyball—in its inaugural year as an exhibition event—are two of the over 20 sports played in the Special Olympics, which includes basketball, cycling, tennis, golf, gymnastics, kayaking and many others. Indoor volleyball is split into three categories: men, women and “unified,” which is played with three Special Olympics athletes and three volleyball players, called “partners”. One of the more popular team events, 294 athletes and 27 teams have already registered for the competition. The beach competition will be a one day event with men’s and women’s teams composed of a minimum of four athletes (three Special Olympics athletes and one “partner”). Games will be played in pool play with a rally scoring system.

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Originally published in June 2011

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