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Special Olympics

Are Special Olympics and Paralympics the same? What's the difference?

No, the Special Olympics and Paralympics are not the same. Here, we take a look at what differentiates the two.

Are Special Olympics and Paralympics the same? Whats the difference?

What is the difference between Special Olympics and Paralympics?


Abhijit Nair

Published: 5 April 2022 7:11 AM GMT

With the world fast moving towards inclusivity of all with no discrimination regarding caste, creed, race, physical abilities and others, we are slowly reaching a place where a good chunk of the global population talks about the Olympics and the Paralympics in the same breath.

As far as India is concerned, the outstanding performance of the country's para-athletes at the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Games, where they outshined able-bodied athletes has put them firmly in the spotlight. The likes of Deepa Malik, Avani Lekhara, Mariyappan Thangavelu, and others are now household names alongside a Neeraj Chopra or PV Sindhu.

While the popularity of Paralympics and para-athletes keeps increasing by the minute, a majority of sports fans continue to equate Special Olympics to the Paralympics?

They believe Special Olympics and Paralympics are the same thing. But, is it really so? Read on to find out.

Are Special Olympics and Paralympics the same?

First things first, the fact that Special Olympics and Paralympics are the same is nothing but a grave misconception. There might be some similarities between the two, but there is a thin line of difference.

So no, the Special Olympics and Paralympics are not the same.

What is the difference between Special Olympics and the Paralympics?

The most basic difference between Special Olympics and Paralympics is the fact that while the former is only conducted for people with intellectual disabilities, the latter is mainly conducted for athletes with physical disabilities. Though the Paralympics is majorly held for people with physical disabilities, it also includes certain categories for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, the athlete must older than eight years and should have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay or a developmental disability. On the other hand to compete in the Paralympics the athlete should either be an amputee, be affected with cerebral palsy, have some spinal injuries or be visually impaired.

Special Olympics and the Paralympics differ in their sporting philosophy too. As per Special Olympics Australia, "Special Olympics believes deeply in the power of sports to help all who participate to fulfil their potential and does not exclude any athlete based upon qualifying scores, but rather divisions the athletes based on those scores for fair competition against others of like ability."

While the Paralympics emphasise more on meeting the set qualification standards for an athlete to compete at the highest level against another athlete with same disability.

Who governs Special Olympics and Paralympics?

While the world body of Special Olympics is called, 'The Special Olympics Organisation' and was founded in the year 1968, the world body for Paralaympics – The International Paralympics Committee came to the fore much later in 1989.

In India Special Olympics is governed by Special Olympics Bharat (SOB), while the Para-sports is governed by Paralympics Committee of India (PCI).

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