ESPN Announces Initial Coverage Plans for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games

Special Olympics

ESPN Announces Initial Coverage Plans for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games

  • Announcement marks 100 Days Out from the start of national event showcasing the power and joy of sports 
  • Kevin Negandhi to Host Opening Ceremony at Husky Stadium on July 1 and nightly programs during Games

ESPN, the official media partner of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, today announced its initial coverage plans for the event that will begin July 1 with live coverage of the Opening Ceremony at 3:30 p.m. ET. Coverage will include the live telecast of the Opening Ceremony and evening studio programs from Seattle throughout the weeklong event, airing primarily on ESPN2 with the Opening Ceremony and highlights from the Closing Ceremony appearing on ABC. All programs will be available to stream live on the ESPN App as well.

ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi will serve as host for both the Opening Ceremony and ESPN’s nightly studio shows throughout the Special Olympics USA Games. The rest of ESPN’s coverage team for the 2018 USA Games will be announced in the coming weeks.

“For nearly 50 years, Special Olympics has been a movement that has driven acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities leading to meaningful change and opportunity,” said Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President, ESPN International. “For more than 32 of those years, ESPN has been proud to be a partner in that movement, and we are excited to capture the athletic achievement, joy and unity of the USA Games in Seattle and showcase them to millions of fans.”

Added Negandhi, “It is such an honor to be part of a movement that continues to change lives on a daily basis. The perseverance, passion, talent and excitement from the athletes is a testament to their hard work and the very definition of how we can all make a difference. We at ESPN, can’t wait to share these stories this summer as we celebrate 50 years of Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s dream that everyone has the chance to take part in sport.”

Live coverage of the Opening Ceremony will capture the pageantry of multiple performances as well as the Parade of Athletes and lighting of the Special Olympics cauldron, with a 2,018-member choir serving as a living backdrop. To kick off the Opening Ceremony, 47 law enforcement officers and six Special Olympics athletes will participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg, carrying the Flame of Hope throughout Washington and lighting the cauldron at Husky Stadium.  ESPN’s special coverage will also include interviews, features and reports from Seattle to preview the week ahead.

ESPN’s evening studio programs will see Negandhi hosting from various venues and iconic locations around Seattle, capturing not only the event itself, but the atmosphere and character of the host city. Each night, they will provide viewers with incredible stories, athlete profiles and features from around the 2018 USA Games, as well as recapping key results from each days’ competition.

ESPN’s coverage will also include a special vignette series that will be shown across ESPN’s media platforms, as well as extensive coverage in the build-up to, and throughout, the 2018 USA Games on ESPN’s global digital platforms – the world’s leading digital sports platform in the world, reaching more than 125 million users every month.

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be the beginning of an extended period of Special Olympics related coverage by ESPN, followed by coverage celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics and culminating in ESPN’s coverage of the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, in Abu Dhabi in just under a year’s time.

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games is a premier, national sports competition that showcases the power and joy of sports at the highest levels. With more than 4,000 athletes and coaches, along with 10,000 volunteers, the 2018 USA Games– taking place in Seattle July 1 – 6, 2018 – will be the biggest sporting event hosted in Seattle in more than 25 years. In addition to athletes and volunteers, it is expected to draw an additional 10,000 family members and friends along with 70,000 spectators. The event will feature 14 Olympic-style sports, with competition taking place in venues throughout the Seattle region (including University of Washington, King County Aquatic Center, Seattle University and Celebration Park), with the unparalleled spirit, teamwork, joy, courage and skill that are hallmarks of all Special Olympics events.



Day/Date Program Time (ET) Network
Sun, Jul 1 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Opening Ceremony 3:30 p.m. ABC
Mon, Jul 2 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Tue, Jul 3 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Wed, Jul 4 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Thu, Jul 5 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Fri, Jul 6 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 5:30 p.m. ESPN2
Sun, Jul 8 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 2 p.m. ABC


ESPN and Special Olympics
ESPN is proud of its relationship with Special Olympics, which spans more than 32 years. Over the past four years, ESPN has continued to deepen its relationship with the Special Olympics movement and in addition to being the Official Broadcaster for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, it will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics in the year ahead and will also be the Official Media Partner of the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, hosted in Abu Dhabi.

ESPN and Special Olympics are committed to continuing their alliance to use the power of sports to promote social inclusion and acceptance through two pillars of the relationship:  ESPN’s Global Presenting Sponsorship of Special Olympics Unified Sports® and a multi-year global programming agreement.

Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Special Olympics Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. With support from ESPN and others, Special Olympics has grown this innovative and inclusive program to more than 1.2 million participants.

In past few years, ESPN has invested over $2 million in cash and in-kind to support Special Olympics’ goal of building Unified Sports programming and resources in 10,000 schools, reaching 100,000 new or re-certified coaches and realizing 7 million acts of inclusion by 2020. Included in this investment was capacity-building resources for a new global cloud based CRM project, ongoing research to help Special Olympics establish a global inclusion index and integration with leagues such as MLS and NBA.

ESPN previously served as the Official Broadcaster of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria and 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, and ESPN employees have been engaged in volunteerism with Special Olympics for over 32 years.  Over 1,000 ESPN and Disney employees will be volunteering at the USA Games in Seattle.

ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplifts the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use the power of sport to positively address society’s most pressing needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information go to 



Paul Melvin [email protected] or +1 860 766 5069
Olivia Wilson [email protected] or +1 213 304 1919

Special Olympics
Jaymelina Esmele [email protected] or 206-788-8964
Tara Baker [email protected] or 202-824-0279

Olivia Coryell

Based out of Austin, Texas, Olivia Coryell is a communications manager focusing on ESPN+, The Walt Disney Company's leading direct-to-consumer sports streaming service. In her time at ESPN, Coryell has worked on communications efforts for X Games, Brand Marketing, Corporate Citizenship, esports and more. Coryell is a proud graduate of Florida State University.
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