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ESPN and Special Olympics Agree Eight-year Rights Extension


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ESPN and Special Olympics have extended and expanded their game-changing relationship, with an eight-year extension of global programming and ESPN’s Global Presenting Sponsorship of Special Olympics Unified Sports.

“The relationship between ESPN and Special Olympics spans nearly three and a half decades and has been built on a bedrock of shared belief in the power of sports to positively impact lives and make lasting change in the world” said Jimmy Pitaro, President of ESPN and co-Chair, Disney Media Networks. “In many ways, Special Olympics represents all that is great about sports.”

“The longstanding partnership between Special Olympics and ESPN goes beyond just broadcasting,” said Mary Davis, Chief Executive Officer of Special Olympics. “This relationship is a catalyst for inclusion. ESPN is telling the stories of Special Olympics athletes at World Games, USA Games, and at some of the over 100,000 Special Olympics events happening around the world every year. In the past year alone, ESPN presented 40 short films showcasing our athletes, coaches, parents, and other game changers. Through its storytelling, media platforms and grant-making, ESPN is building positive attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities and showing the world that the revolution is inclusion.”

Added Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and General Manager, ESPN+, “Together, along with the support of The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Special Olympics have made real progress in spotlighting these incredible athletes and their achievements, bringing inspiring stories to millions of fans and driving meaningful growth in support of the Special Olympics Movement.”



The new eight-year programming agreement will see ESPN continue as the Global Broadcast Partner of signature Special Olympics events through 2027, including the World Games, World Winter Games and USA Games. ESPN’s support of Special Olympics began over 30 years ago, and groundbreaking multimedia coverage of Special Olympics events began in 2015. Since then, ESPN has added year-round news and feature coverage of Special Olympics, its athletes, community, and culture.

Following ESPN’s unprecedented coverage of Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015, ESPN signed on as the movement’s Global Broadcast Partner. Since then, ESPN and Special Olympics have continued to raise the bar for coverage signature events at Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017, 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

ESPN’s coverage of major Special Olympics events will continue to reach fans around the world via ESPN and Disney networks and media platforms in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe and the Middle East. In addition, Special Olympics and ESPN will work together, along with host-market broadcasters, to bring events to even more viewers through additional distribution.

Walt Disney World Resort will host the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, offering its 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex as the premier venue for the USA Games. The use of the sports complex is part of Disney’s multi-faceted support of the Special Olympics movement, which also includes additional sponsorship and in-kind support for the USA Games, Presenting Partner for the Volunteer Program and ESPN’s role as the Global Presenting Sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports.

Taking place June 5 – 11, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games will feature more than 4,000 athletes, 10,000 volunteers, 1,500 coaches and 125,000 fans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, all of whom will unite in the Orlando area and participate in one of the country’s most cherished sporting events.