We are recognised by Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport
VIRTUS (originally called INAS-FMH) was established in 1986 by professionals in the Netherlands who were involved in sport and wanted to promote the participation of athletes with “mental handicap”. The founding meeting and first Executive were appointed in January 1986 and VIRTUS became a member of the ICC – the International Coordinating Committee – which in 1992 became the International Paralympic Committee.
VIRTUS’ original membership was just 14 nations which has steadily grown to more than 80 nations today.
The organisation’s first General Assembly was held in November 1988 in Madrid, Spain, at which time the first full Executive was elected. In 1989, the ‘1st World Games for Athletes with an Intellectual Disability’ were held in Harnosand, Sweden
In September 1991 ahead of the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, the first Paralympic Games for ‘Persons with mental handicap’ were held in Madrid, at which 70 nations competed. In 1994, INAS-FMH became INAS-FID – the ‘International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability’. In 1996, a small programme for athletes with an intellectual disability was included in the Paralympic Games in Atlanta before a larger programme including athletics, swimming and basketball was included in Sydney 2000.
During this period, the sport programme grew considerably to incorporate more than 10 sports whilst its membership and reach grew to cover five continents.
In 2017, the VIRTUS General Assembly voted to run a trial of eligibility groups for Down’s syndrome and autism in VIRTUS competitions in addition to those with an intellectual impairment. The first competition to try-out the new groups will be the 2017 VIRTUS World Table Tennis Championships in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic.
Today’s sport programme includes some 15 annual events, more than 4,500 athletes are registered to compete at an international level, whilst more than 300,000 people with an intellectual disability worldwide have the opportunity to enjoy sport through the work of our member organisations.
Following a period of absence from the Paralympic programme, events for athletes with an intellectual impairment were re-instated by the IPC General Assembly in November 2009. Around 120 athletes went on to compete in athletics, swimming and table tennis at London 2012.
VIRTUS Vision: Athletes With An Intellectual Impairment Across The World Have The Opportunity To Achieve Excellence In Sport And High-Level Competition
Around two per cent of the global population have an intellectual impairment – one of the biggest groups in society.
We are inspired by the belief that an intellectual impairment, autism or Down syndrome should not be a barrier to competing at the highest levels.
High Performance Sport For Athletes With An Intellectual Impairment
Virtus: World Intellectual Impairment Sport (VIRTUS) helps more than 300,000 of the world’s best athletes compete in a variety of winter and summer sports. These include tennis, basketball, cycling, cricket, and alpine skiing.
VIRTUS organises competitions such as world and regional Championships. We also manage eligibility and classification, working with other International Federations. Three of the sports on our programme – swimming, athletics and table tennis – feature at the Paralympic Games.
We partner with other organisations to develop sports such as taekwondo. We also develop new sports such as equestrian, with an aim to grow the number of athletes and competitions.
We promote inclusion of people with intellectual impairments in society and are a member of the International Paralympic Committee. Part of our work involves educating our members on eligibility and classification so that they can develop their athlete pool.
VIRTUS was formed in 1986 and has grown to a membership of more than 80 nations across the world. These cover Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Oceania. For more information visit the history of VIRTUS page.
Every four years we host the VIRTUS Global Games – the world’s largest elite sports event for athletes with an intellectual impairment. For more information visit the Global Games page.
We are a registered as a charity, based in Great Britain. We are supported by a huge volunteer workforce around the world.
Our activities in promoting high performance sport for athletes with an intellectual impairment are only possible with the help of fundraising and contributions from our member nations. We do not qualify for state or lottery support.
VIRTUS is currently developing the following sports: