There are four main levels of events within Special Olympics; local, regional, national and international. 
By participating in a competition at one level, athletes earn the right to be considered for advancement to higher levels of competition within Special Olympics.

Local and Regional Events

Ribbon and Certificate Days

Ribbon and Certificate Days are the most common kind of competition for athletes involved in Special Olympics New Zealand. They are called Ribbon or Certificate Days because athletes are awarded ribbons/certificates for first to eighth place. Ribbon and Certificate days are also known as Tier 1 competitions. They usually take place on a single day.

Regional Events

Regional Games are sports competitions for athletes from within a region. Regional Games are usually held over two days and involve an overnight stay but some sports may only require one day of competition.

Regional Games are typically centred on one sport but sometimes offer more than one sport. Regional Events are also known as Tier 2 competitions. In the lead-up to National Games, athletes must participate in Ribbon Days and Regional Games.

Have-a-go Days

Have-a-go Days give athletes a chance try out a sport and see if they like it before signing up. Have-a-go Days are just for fun.  

Challenge Days

Challenge Days are fun events that usually occur when one Club challenges another Club to a duel on a particular day and in a particular sport. At a bowling challenge day, for example, the Club who drops the most pins wins the day!

National Games

Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games and National Winter Games are each held every four years, these are multi-day sports competitions. Athletes gather from around the country to compete in a variety of season-specific sports.

National Games are held on a residential basis. For some athletes, going to National Games is the first time they’ve travelled away from home. In the lead-up to World Games, athletes must participate in National Games to be considered for selection.

2019 National Winter Games

In September, 48 athletes from across New Zealand gathered at the stunning Cardrona Alpine Resort for the 2019 National Winter Games; competing in Intermediate and Advanced Alpine skiing and Intermediate snowboarding events over 3 days of competition.

2021 National Summer Games – Postponed to 2022

The 2021 National Summer Games have been postponed to 2022 due to Covid-19. This event will bring over 1300 athletes to Hamilton for 5 days of competition.

For up-to-date information and news check out our official National Summer Games 2021 website

International Games

Special Olympics World Summer Games and World Winter Games are each held every four years. Special Olympics World Games are multi-day sports competitions that gather athletes from around the world. Competition is available in a variety of season-specific sports.​

World Games are held on a residential basis and offer other activities in addition to sports such as Healthy Athletes, Host Town Programme and Athlete Congress.​

Sometimes there are additional opportunities for athletes from New Zealand to travel to other international events such as the Trans-Tasman Games and Asia Pacific Games.

2023 Berlin World Summer Games

Thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities compete together in 26 summer sports and Unified Sports® competitions. Eight days of exciting and inspiring competitions from 17 to 24 June 2023, by athletes and for athletes.

Visit the official website at

2022 World Winter Games – Postponed to 2023

The Special Olympics World Winter Games Kazan 2022 have been postponed to January 2023 due to Covid-19.

2,000 athletes and Unified partners from over 100 Nations and 3,000 volunteers from all over the world will gather in Kazan to create acceptance and inclusion through sport, volunteerism, education and health.