ESPN’s Coverage of Special Olympics USA Games Begins July 1 From Seattle

Special Olympics

ESPN’s Coverage of Special Olympics USA Games Begins July 1 From Seattle

  • Kevin Negandhi to host coverage, including Live Opening Ceremony from Husky Stadium and nightly programs throughout the 2018 USA Games
  • Opening Ceremony emceed by Taye Diggs, with performances from Charlie Puth, Marshmello, Allen Stone, Ann Wilson and more; Speakers include Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver
  • Nightly 2018 Special Olympics USA Games program to bring viewers stories, competition showcase, interviews and more throughout the Games
  • Coverage also includes: LIVE daily streaming coverage of swimming competition on ESPN3, extensive news, video and information on, ESPN App; Vignette Series across ESPN platforms

ESPN’s coverage of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle will begin July 1 with a live two-and-a-half hour special on ABC capturing the inspiration, pageantry, performances and special guests of the USA Games Opening Ceremony. Kevin Negandhi will host ESPN’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony, and will anchor its nightly coverage throughout the Games. Monday, July 2 through Friday, July 6, Negandhi will host 2018 Special Olympics USA Games each night on ESPN2, bringing viewers the stories, competition showcase, interviews and more from Seattle each evening.

Additionally, throughout the week, ESPN3 will carry six and a half hours of LIVE streaming coverage from swimming competition taking place at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

Special Olympics athlete and ambassador Daina Shilts will make her debut with ESPN, serving as Special Olympics Analyst throughout the Games and during the Opening Ceremony. ESPN’s coverage team will also include reporters Marty Smith, Holly Rowe and Jen Lada, swimming analysts Paul Sunderland, Victoria Arlen and Rowdy Gaines, as well as contributions from Kenny Mayne.

“Anybody that loves sports and storytelling is going to love our coverage of the Special Olympics USA Games,” said Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International. “The Opening Ceremony will be an extraordinary live event and viewers will be so impressed by these athletes, their ability and competitive spirit and the incredible stories we will tell throughout the week.”

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will also mark 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 March.

As the Official Broadcaster for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, ESPN’s coverage will be carried across the ABC and ESPN family of networks in the U.S. (ABC, ESPN2), as well as streamed on the newly re-imagined ESPN App. Live swimming competition coverage will be streamed on ESPN3.

In the build-up to the Games, ESPN will feature a series of short vignettes that will appear daily on SportsCenter and across ESPN digital and social media platforms.

The Opening Ceremony will be live on ABC, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Hosted by Negandhi, and emceed by actor-singer Taye Diggs, it will feature musical performances by multi-GRAMMY nominated singer, songwriter and producer Charlie Puth, world renowned DJ and producer Marshmello, singer-songwriter Allen Stone, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Ann Wilson (of Heart), Seattle hip hop crew Massive Monkees and more. A 2,018-member choir, one of the largest vocal ensembles in Washington State history, will also serve as a living backdrop to the show.

ESPN’s evening programs – 2018 Special Olympics USA Gameswill be on ESPN2 each night at 6 p.m. ET (except Wednesday, July 4 – when it will air at 5 p.m.). 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, Negandhi 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 digital and television platforms.

Each night’s program will feature a special Around The Games with Daina Shilts presented by Bank of America segment hosted by Shilts. The daily segment will bring viewers inside the atmosphere of the Games, capturing the unique excitement around Seattle, highlighting different aspects of the daily goings on around Seattle and the experiences of the athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators at the Games.

The Games will also be covered by SportsCenter throughout the week, with daily segments in the SportsCenter AM and 6pm editions focused on the stories, developments and activities from Seattle.

ESPN’s week-long coverage will be rounded out with a one-hour program on ABC Sunday, July 8 at 2 p.m., providing highlights from the Closing Ceremony and highlights from the week of coverage.

ESPN’s industry-leading digital and print media platforms – including, ESPN The Magazine and the ESPN App – will deliver coverage of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games with video, news, long-form feature storytelling, exclusive blogs from athletes, coaches and volunteers, photo galleries and more.

In addition to coverage on ABC and ESPN2 in the United States, ESPN’s coverage of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will reach sports fans and viewers around the world on ESPN networks across Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, as well as on TSN in Canada. Additionally, Special Olympics USA Games coverage will be carried on the ESPN Player streaming service across dozens of countries in EMEA and on Tencent digital media platforms in China.


Day/Date Program Time (ET) Network
Sun, July 1 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Opening Ceremony 3:30 p.m. ABC
Mon, July 2 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 6 p.m. ESPN2
LIVE Special Olympics Swimming 5 p.m. ESPN3
Tue, July 3 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 6 p.m. ESPN2
LIVE Special Olympics Swimming 4:30 p.m. ESPN3
Wed, July 4 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 5 p.m. ESPN2
LIVE Special Olympics Swimming 1 p.m. ESPN3
Thu, July 5 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 6 p.m. ESPN2
LIVE Special Olympics Swimming 4:30 p.m. ESPN3
Fri, July 6 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 6 p.m. ESPN2
Sun, July 8 2018 Special Olympics USA Games 2 p.m. ABC



On Sunday, July 1 at University of Washington’s Husky Ballpark, ESPN and Special Olympics will stage the first-ever ESPN | Special Olympics Unified Sports Challenge. The event will feature executives and their employees, celebrities and Special Olympics athletes all competing in multiple Unified Sports challenges to demonstrate the power of inclusion, of playing Unified and raising funds for Special Olympics and the local Seattle community. Stories, interviews and highlights from the event will appear in ESPN coverage later in the week.


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 Broadcaster 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 200 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 



Olivia Wilson              [email protected] or +1 213 304 1919
Teri Couch                   [email protected] or +1 860 766 4696
Paul Melvin                 [email protected] or +1 860 766 5069

Special Olympics USA Games
Jaymelina Esmele      [email protected] or 206-788-8964

Special Olympics North America
Tara Baker                  [email protected] or 202-824-0279




Teri Couch

I oversee our company archives and manage our media website (ESPN Press Room). I also help out with PR efforts around our partnership with Special Olympics.
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