University of Minnesota to host 2026 Special Olympics USA

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The 2026 Special Olympics USA Games will be held at the University of Minnesota, officials announced Friday.

Gov. Tim Walz said he is “incredibly proud” to have Minnesota host the seven-day event, which is expected to draw as many as 4,000 athletes, 10,000 volunteers, 1,500 coaches and 75,000 fans from all 50 states, Canada and the Caribbean.

“Every four years, Special Olympics hosts the USA Games and in 2026, this will be the single biggest sporting event in the United States during that year,” Walz said at a news conference.

The games for children and adults with intellectual disabilities will include 15 Olympic-type team and individual sports and five demonstration sports. Competitions will be held at the university and other Twin Cities venues.

The university will offer its housing, athletic, dining and medical facilities for the athletes, coaches, families and fans, said university President Joan Gabel, the honorary co-chair of the games.

The Special Olympics have, historically, generated more than $70 million of economic impact for the host city, according to Special Olympics Minnesota.

“More importantly, it will showcase these incredible athletes, the work they do and the idea of inclusiveness in our society,” Walz said. “Minnesota has always prided ourselves on our health and wellness by making sure that includes everyone.”