The first Special Olympics event, in 1968, had competitors from only Canada and the U.S., but when Yao Ming (below) and Shanghai welcomed the World Summer Games in 2007, athletes from 164 countries were included. Only four years earlier Ireland became the first country outside the U.S. to host a World Summer Games, and its exuberant soccer players (top row, left) celebrated a goal in Dublin. In '05 an Italian skier (top right) rejoiced at the World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, the first city to serve as the site of an Olympics, Paralympics and Special Olympics. Forty years after its humble start the movement continues to spread, with athletes in 181 countries, including (bottom row) Jamaica and the United Arab Emirates, competing in national programs. Afghanistan's team has grown in five years from five athletes in track and field to more than 800 in six sports.
This is an article from the Dec. 8, 2008 issue