Background of Special Olympics Thailand
Special Olympics Thailand was founded on 26 February 1987 by the Hon. Sargent Shriver, who was then the Chairman of Special Olympics International (SOI), authorizing Mrs. Virginia P. Kirkwood, SOI’s Consultant on Asia Development, to engage with organizations and leaders who worked for people with intellectual disabilities in Thailand.
SO Thailand became a national programme member of Special Olympics International along with 170 programme members worldwide. Special Olympics was founded by Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968. Its Head Office is located in Washington DC., USA. A Project Coordination Office for SO Thailand was set up at the Foundation for the Mentally Handicapped of Thailand under Royal Patronage in order to facilitate the first participation of 4 Thai special athletes at the 1987 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Indiana, USA . Khunying Soporn Wongsawan chaired the first SO Thailand Board.
SO Thailand registered with the Sports Authority of Thailand as a National Sports Association on 10 April 1991 using the official organization name as “The Special Olympics National Committee of Thailand”. At the time of registration, the Board was chaired by Khunying Vichandra Bunnag.
Thanphuying Niramol Suriyasat became the Board Chair of SO Thailand between 1993 – 2000. She was invited to become a Special Olympics International Board member in 1995-6.
Dr. Naris Chaiyasoot became SO Thailand’s Board Chair in 2000 and has led the organization until the present day.
HRH Princess Soamsawali had graciously granted the Royal Flames for every SO Thailand’s National Games and personally presided over the Opening of the Games in 2003 and 2005. SO Thailand has been honoured by the presence of HRH Princess Bajarakitiyabha at the Games in 1993 as well as past Prime Ministers i.e. H.E. Anand Punyarachun, H.E. Chuan Leekpai and H.E. Abhisit Vejajeva
SO Thailand has taken part in a total of 8 SO World Summer Games (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019) as well as the 1st SO Asia Pacific Regional Games and the SO World Winter Games, both in 2013
On 19 January 2018, the official name of Special Olympics Thailand was changed to “Special Olympics Association of Thailand” under the new National Sports Charter of 2015
At present, there are over 20,000 athletes participating in SO Thailand programmes nationwide.