Special Olympics, international sporting program designed for participation by mentally retarded people. This program is active in summer and winter sports year round through communities and schools. Like the Olympics, an international winter and summer Special Olympic event takes place every 4 years. The program develops events according to the age and ability of its participants. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Special Olympics were founded (1968) and are sponsored by the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation.