Iowa Special Olympic Athlete compete in the softball throw as one of the field events during the summer games May 18. 

Beginning Thursday, the annual games for Special Olympics Iowa will take part on Iowa State’s campus. From Forker to Hilton Coliseum, athletes will compete on a campus which is tied to the event.

Special Olympics Iowa aims to empower its athletes and promote inclusion for people with special needs into society.

Competition for the games takes starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday with a singles tennis and cycling competition.

Athletes will compete in events including swimming, bocce, cycling, soccer, tennis and athletics. Athletics competitions consist of numerous track and field type events including mini javelin and the 800 meter dash.

Athletes don’t have to qualify for the games and are able to compete in a multitude of events. There are also events for all kinds of athletes, whether they have a mental or physical disability. For instance, swimming has float-assisted swimming events and athletics has a race for athletes who use a wheelchair.

The opening ceremony for the event starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Hilton Coliseum with the torch ceremony. Competition will continue until 8:30 a.m. on Saturday when the final athletics competition begins.


Iowa Special Olympic Athletes dance to the YMCA before the start of the swimming portion of the summer games in Beyer Hall May 18.

On both Thursday and Friday, athletic competitions will be going on all day.

For the games, several streets will be closed for the duration of the competition.

As well as providing competitive events for the athletes, Special Olympics Iowa also has athletic clinics and screenings. In addition, athletes also have the opportunity to spend the weekend at Iowa State’s dormitories and eat at dining halls for their meals.

Polar Bear Plunge — the largest fundraising event for Special Olympics Iowa — raises the most money at Iowa State. In 2019, Iowa State contributed $295,000 to the event which is in its 22nd year as an event.


The Polar Bear Plunge was held Friday at the Hansen Agriculture Center. The annual event supports the Special Olympics of Iowa.

The previous year, Iowa State raised $377,132.94, setting a record for a Special Olympics Iowa fundraising event.

The fundraiser has become a staple of the university’s annual Greek Week, which takes place every spring.

Iowa State has also hosted olympians to compete or perform at Iowa State sporting events including the half time of women’s basketball games. Athletes have performed dance routines and played five-on-five basketball in front of packed Hilton crowds.

From serving as a host for the games to Polar Bear Plunge, Special Olympics Iowa is deeply tied to Iowa State's campus and community.

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