ESPN’s Coverage of Special Olympics World Games Begins March 14 from Abu Dhabi

Special Olympics

ESPN’s Coverage of Special Olympics World Games Begins March 14 from Abu Dhabi

  • Kevin Negandhi to Host Coverage, including Live Opening Ceremony from Zayed Sports City Stadium and Nightly Programs Throughout the 2019 World Games
  • Robin Roberts LIVE in Abu Dhabi; Stories on Good Morning America Thursday, March 14 and 15
  • Nightly 2019 Special Olympics World Games Program to Bring Viewers Stories, Competition Coverage, Interviews and More Throughout the Games
  • Coverage also Includes: More LIVE Daily Streaming Competition Coverage than ever on ESPN3; Extensive News, Video and Information on, ESPN App; Vignette Series Highlighting Athlete Stories


ESPN’s coverage of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will begin Thursday, March 14, with a live three-hour special ESPNEWS, capturing the inspiration, pageantry, performances and special guests of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi Opening Ceremony. Kevin Negandhi will host ESPN’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony, as well as its nightly studio programming throughout the Games.

Julie Foudy will join Negandhi during the Parade of Athletes during the Opening Ceremony, and will also serve as a reporter for ESPN throughout the World Games. Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts will also join Negandhi and Foudy during the Opening Ceremony and will contribute to the coverage during the World Games, appearing in multiple shows and sharing Special Olympics stories on Good Morning America on March 14 and 15. Jen Lada and Gene Wojciechowski will also be in the UAE providing reporting in the Opening Ceremony and throughout the Games, with Wojciechowski joining ESPN’s World Games coverage for the first time.

Each evening from Friday, March 15, through Thursday, March 21, Negandhi will anchor 2019 Special Olympics World Games from Corinche Beach in Abu Dhabi. Airing on ESPN2, ABC or ESPNEWS the program will bring viewers the stories, competition showcase, interviews and more.

ESPN’s coverage of World Games will also include more live coverage of competition than ever before. Working with host broadcaster Abu Dhabi Media, ESPN3 will feature multiple live feeds each day throughout the Games, delivering more than 175 hours of live coverage across venues and competitions including Track & Field, Swimming, Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Sailing/Kayaking, Equestrian, Powerlifting and more.

Special Olympics athlete and ambassador Daina Shilts will return as contributor to ESPN’s coverage throughout the Games and during the Opening Ceremony. Each night’s program will feature a special Around The Games with Daina Shilts segment hosted by Shilts. The daily segment will bring viewers inside the atmosphere of the Games, capturing the unique excitement around Abu Dhabi, highlighting different aspects of the daily goings on around Abu Dhabi and the experiences of the athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators at the Games.

“ESPN and The Walt Disney Company are honored to bring Special Olympics events to millions and through the stories of these incredible athletes and community, promote social inclusion and acceptance,” said Russell Wolff, executive vice president and general manager, ESPN+. “We’re very excited to expand our coverage and bring fans our most comprehensive coverage ever, with incredible storytelling, highlights and more live events than ever.”

The Opening Ceremony will be live on ESPNEWS, from Zayed Sports City Stadium, beginning at 11 a.m. ET on March 14. Kicking off World Games, the Opening Ceremony promises to be a must-see mix of hope, happiness, unity and inclusion, starring 7,500 Special Olympics athletes from more than 190 nations in front of 40,000 spectators — and expect performances from a stellar line-up of artists. The ceremony will culminate with Special Olympics athletes completing the Law Enforcement Torch Run®, carrying the Flame of Hope into Zayed Sports City and lighting a cauldron to mark the beginning of the Games.

ESPN’s week-long coverage will be rounded out with a two-hour program on ABC Saturday, March 30 at 3 p.m., providing highlights from the Closing Ceremony and from the week of coverage.

Kevin Martinez, vice president of corporate citizenship, ESPN, added: “At ESPN and The Walt Disney Company, we know that creating equal access to sports for people with and without intellectual disabilities can change lives and uplift the human spirit. That’s why we are so proud of our commitment to grow Unified Sports in order to inspire inclusion and acceptance, with these Games marking the most Unified World Games ever.”

Internationally, ESPN’s coverage will reach more than 200 countries around the world through its own branded television networks/digital streaming services, ESPN sub-licensees and multiple syndication partnerships that ESPN has arranged in collaboration with Special Olympics International.  ESPN will make this event available in Latin America (in Spanish & Portuguese language), Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Special Olympics World Games coverage will be carried on the ESPN Player streaming service across many countries in EMEA, on the Tencent digital media platforms in China and on Sony-India’s digital platforms in India. In Canada, TSN will also air coverage on its family of television networks and digital platforms in the region.

SportsCenter and ESPN digital and social media platforms will also provide coverage in the buildup and throughout the week of the Games,  segments in the SportsCenter AM and 6 p.m. editions throughout the games focused on the stories, developments and activities from Abu Dhabi. ESPN’s industry-leading digital and print media platforms – including, ESPN The Magazine and the ESPN App – will deliver coverage of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games with video, news, long-form feature storytelling, exclusive blogs from athletes, coaches and volunteers, photo galleries and more.

ESPN The Magazine will include a Voices column about Special Olympics World Games in their Fame issue, and will also be posting coverage in editions around the world, including the UK, Australia and Africa. Leading into the games, a writer will also follow an athlete from Montana for three days before leaving for Abu Dhabi, and a photographer will meeting him in Abu Dhabi to capture his entire experience.



Day/Date Program Time (ET) Network
Thu, Mar 14 2019 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony 11 a.m. ESPNNEWS
Fri, Mar 15 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 2 a.m. – Noon ESPN3
Sat, Mar 16 2019 Special Olympics World Games 1:30 a.m. ESPNNEWS
LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 1 a.m. – Noon ESPN3
Sun, Mar 17 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 10 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 2 p.m. ABC
Mon, Mar 18 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 11 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 12 a.m. ESPN2
Tue, Mar 19 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 11 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 1 a.m. ESPN2
Wed, Mar 20 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 10:30 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 1 a.m. ESPN2
Thu, Mar 21 2019 Special Olympics World Games 12 a.m. ESPN2
Fri, Mar 22 2019 Special Olympics World Games 12 a.m. ESPN2
Sat, Mar 30 Best of Special Olympics World Games 3 p.m. ABC


ESPN is proud of its relationship with Special Olympics, which spans more than 33 years. Over the past five years, ESPN has continued to deepen its relationship with the Special Olympics movement. ESPN served as the Official Broadcaster for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle as well as the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics in Chicago. In 2019, ESPN will serve as the Official Media Partner of the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, hosted in Abu Dhabi.

In 2016, ESPN and Special Olympics committed to continuing their alliance to use the power of sports to promote social inclusion and acceptance by reaching two agreements: an extension, and expansion, of ESPN’s Global Presenting Sponsorship of Special Olympics Unified Sports® and a new, three-year global programming agreement.

ESPN grants support Special Olympics Unified Sports, as well as other initiatives, and extends and expands a role ESPN has held since 2013. 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 1.6 million participants. As part of the continued support of Unified Sports, ESPN will invest in Special Olympics’ goal to build Unified Sports programming and resources in 10,000 schools by 2020 and ensuring 100,000 coaches receive new/renewed sports certifications by 2020.

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.

ESPN employees have been engaged in volunteerism with Special Olympics for over 32 years. Over 500 ESPN and Disney employees volunteered 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 +1 904 303 3538
Teri Couch [email protected] or +1 860 766 4696


Special Olympics
Mark Daley [email protected] or +1 202 657 9756

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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