Special Olympics Canada | Olympiques Spéciaux Canada
42,565 children, youth & adults

with an intellectual disability are registered in Special Olympics programs.

50 per cent

of Special Olympics athletes work. They are 5 times more likely to work than adults with an intellectual disability not enrolled in Special Olympics.

Team Canada

Official Sports and Rules

Enjoy the challenge

Whether aiming for a personal best or looking to be the best, being a Special Olympics athlete is about enjoying sport and choosing to challenge oneself. With this in mind, we have organized our official sports and programs into several different categories to ensure every athlete is able to participate and benefit from being active.

“Let’s see who gets to the bottom first!” Remember when, at the top of the ski hill, you shouted out a challenge like this to your best friend? Whether it’s two people or twenty, at the heart of sport is the notion of competition. Someone will post the fastest time, someone will score the winning goal.

And in sport, we also see that one of its most important benefits is its power to connect individuals; to create teammates and forge friendships; to bring forth a new community of interest and common endeavour.

The powerful social benefits of sport are of particular importance to people with an intellectual disability because one of the first effects of their disability is social isolation. For many Special Olympics athletes, training sessions become the source and the nourishment of their deepest friendships.

Special Olympics athletes will each have the opportunity to compete at some level. Perhaps they have decided to stay active for life, enrolling in year-round programs that run in the community. It is here, for instance, that they will enjoy the benefits of sport by keeping fit through a weekly program.

Or maybe they will choose to take it to a higher level, with an eye to earning the opportunity to compete in national or international games. Here, for example, they will make a greater commitment to their training, and may cycle through the competitions as described below.

We recognize the following as official sports:


Summer Sports

Athletics (PDF)
5 Pin Bowling (PDF)
10 Pin Bowling (PDF)
Basketball (PDF)
Bocce (PDF)
Golf (PDF)
Powerlifting (PDF)
Rhythmic Gymnastics (PDF)
Soccer (PDF)
Softball (PDF)
Swimming (PDF)

Winter Sports

Alpine Skiing (PDF)
Cross Country (PDF)
Curling (PDF)
Figure Skating (PDF)
Figure Skating Skills Chart (PDF)
Floor Hockey (PDF)
Snowshoeing (PDF)
Speed Skating (PDF)

Competition Structure

Local and/or Regional Competitions
Occurring throughout the year, these are qualifiers for provincials. All athletes can take part in local competitions.

Provincial Games
Occurring annually or semi-annually, these alternate between spring/summer or winter competitions, depending upon the chapter. These games also serve as qualifiers for national games.

Special Olympics Canada Games
These national competitions occur every two years, alternating between summer and winter.

Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games in Nova Scotia

Special Olympics World Games
It doesn’t get any bigger than this. Undoubtedly one of our most recognized events, the Special Olympics movement stages what is its largest sporting, cultural and educational event every two years, alternating between summer and winter. What makes this international competition so compelling is that it also offers related programming like Healthy Athletes.

Past hosts have included Dublin, Ireland, Nagano, Japan, Shanghai, China, Athens, Greece, PyeongChang, Republic of Korea and Los Angeles, California.

The 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Austria from March 14-25, 2017. For more information, please click here.