World Games


Special Olympics World Games are the largest sports and social inclusion event on the planet—advancing a world of full inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in sports, education, health and leadership. Bringing together thousands of Special Olympics athletes from across the globe, World Games take place every two years, alternating between Summer and Winter Games.


(subject to change)


The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) determines the sports offered and number of athlete slots, by gender and category, in each of these sports and assigns a quota to each country.  With individual sports, the GOC creates categories to group events together and countries must identify specific categories and gender as part of the quota process.  Countries are required to stay within their assigned categories and gender when filling slots.

Special Olympics USA (SO USA) allows each State Program to submit a quota request.  Special Olympics Illinois (SOILL) attempts to vary requested slots each Games to allow for a variety of athletes to have the opportunity to advance to World Games.  SO USA reviews quota requests and does their best to give each State Program what they request.  If requests exceed available slots, then SO USA determines quotas for each State Program.  SOILL’s typical quota is less than 10 individual slots and sometimes 1 team.


For individual sports offered at the USA Games, athletes and Unified partners must have successfully competed in the sport at the USA Games to be eligible for nomination to a World Games team.  For individual sports not offered at the USA Games, eligible athletes and Unified partners must have competed in the sport at the identified state qualifying event.  SOILL uses a nomination process for these slots.  Any athlete who wins a gold medal in the assigned slot (within category and gender criteria) is eligible for nomination.  SOILL distributes a list of eligible athletes and Region staff follow-up with agencies to determine athletes appropriate for nomination.  The local coach is responsible for submitting nomination forms.  SOILL reviews all nominees to ensure they meet advancement criteria.  Athletes and Unified partners meeting advancement criteria guidelines will then be randomly selected by SOILL to fill assigned quota slots. 


For team sports offered at the USA Games, athletes and Unified partners must have successfully competed in the sport at the USA Games to be eligible for nomination to a World Games team.  For team sports not offered at USA Games, SOILL uses a nomination process for team sports.  Nominated athletes must be on a team that competes in the sport at the state tournament identified as the qualifying event.  Local coaches may nominate as many athletes from their team as are appropriate.  SOILL utilizes a selection committee to evaluate and observe nominees throughout the tournament. The committee chooses the final team members and identifies alternates.   There are no restrictions that limit the number of athletes selected from a Region.


SO USA selects World Games coaches.  Applicants must complete and submit an application to SOILL. SOILL verifies all required criteria is met including sport certification and Class A volunteer screening.  Applications for eligible candidates are forwarded to SO USA.  SO USA makes final decisions regarding coaches and alternate coaches.  Coaches must be certified in the sport(s) they apply to coach.