By Barry Janoff
May 18, 2016: Following the success of the Special Olympics USA Games in New Jersey in 2014 and the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles last year, Seattle has been selected to host the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
The Special Olympics USA Games are held every four years, with previous host cities also including Lincoln, Nebraska (2010) and Ames, Iowa (2006).
Locally headquartered Microsoft is already on board as Premier Partner for the 2018 USA Games.
Legacy Partners include Bank of America, Coca-Cola (a Special Olympics Founding Partner since 1968), KPMG LLP and Starbucks.
Supporting partners include Perkins Coie, Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce, Special Olympics Washington, Visit Seattle and the Washington Athletic Club.
Publicis Seattle is creating the visual identity and branding for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
ESPN and Special Olympics also signed two agreements related to these and other Games.
One is a three-year global programming agreement under which ESPN — which aired the Special Olympics World Games last summer from Opening to Closing Ceremonies — would continue as an official broadcaster, covering the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle and the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
The deal also sees ESPN providing additional news and feature coverage of other Special Olympics events, athletes and stories over the course of the three-year pact.
The second deal is an extension and expansion of ESPN’s global presenting sponsorship of Special Olympics Unified Sports, a role it has had since 2013..
The USA Games in Seattle, scheduled for July 1-6, 2018, will be a highlight of Special Olympics' global 50th Anniversary celebration in 2018.
"The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will showcase the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, promote the ideals of acceptance and inclusion through sport, and celebrate the transformative power of Special Olympics," Beth Knox, CEO for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, said during a media conference this week in Seattle.
"These Games are expected to be the most significant sporting event to come to Seattle since the 1990 Goodwill Games. In addition to hosting a world-class sporting event, we hope to leave a legacy of increased awareness and support for Special Olympics here in Washington long after the Games are over," said Knox.
An estimated 3,500 Special Olympics athletes from 50 states and the District of Columbia, 1,000 coaches, 10,000 family members, 10,000 volunteers and an estimated 50,000 spectators are expected to participate.
Competition in 16 Olympic-type individual and team sports, as well as special events, will be hosted at venues throughout Seattle and the King County area, including Husky Stadium at the University of Washington, which will serve as the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
In addition to sports competition, special events, celebrity involvement, and the pageantry of Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the 2018 USA Games will also "showcase Special Olympics' work in promoting health, programming in schools, inclusive community-building and more."
According to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, "We look forward to welcoming 3,500 athletes, their families, friends and supporters to Washington state in 2018. The skills, courage and determination of these athletes is inspiring. Washington will model the spirit of Special Olympics — to be more aware and more inclusive. What a wonderful legacy these Games will leave behind."
ESPN said that over the last three years it has "invested more than $3 million and strategically used its multi-platform media assets and marketing expertise to expand Special Olympics Unified Sports. globally.
“ESPN is not just a broadcaster or sponsor, but our partner in building positive attitudes about athletes with intellectual disabilities."
The news came on the heels of Mary Davis, who had been interim CEO for the Special Olympics, being named CEO for Special Olympics.
“ESPN is not just a broadcaster or sponsor, but our partner in building positive attitudes about athletes with intellectual disabilities,” Davis said in a statement.
"As our movement continues to break down negative stigma, we are thrilled that ESPN will be opening hearts and minds through sports television sharing the gifts and talents of our Special Olympics athletes with the world and helping us invite everyone to join our movement for inclusion," said Davis.
Special Olympics was named Grand Sports Marketer of the Year for 2015 by the readers of NYSportsJournalism for its work on the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
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