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The biggest sporting event of 2011, the Special Olympics celebrates a homecoming of sorts this year with events being held in Athens, the ancient home of athletic excellence and sportsmanship. Held throughout the city, the event crowns every competitor a winner. The Special Olympics aims to create a world that celebrates the inclusion of all rather than one that excludes those who are different. While participants compete for the glory of first place in individual events, the competition as a whole is seen as a shared victory for their struggle for a broader appreciation of their diversity and special abilities.
Held over two weeks the event draws 7,500 Special Olympics athletes from 185 nations and sees competition take place across 22 Olympic-type sports. The event has grown in size and stature since its 1968 foundation by American woman Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
This year's event takes on an added poignancy as it's the first Special Olympics to take place following her death in 2009, but her enduring commitment to the advancement and acceptance of all members of society remains a core value of the Games themselves.