ESPN’s Groundbreaking Coverage of Special Olympics World Winter Games Begins March 18 From Austria

February 17, 2017

  • ESPN’s first World Winter Games coverage includes live three-hour Opening Ceremony featuring Parade of Athletes, Special Guests and musical performances from multi-Grammy Award winner Jason Mraz and Grace VanderWaal
  • Robin Roberts, Kevin Negandhi, Lindsay Czarniak and Dustin Plunkett to host coverage from Graz, Schladming-Rohrmoos and Ramsau 
  • Nightly Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 program to bring viewers stories, competition showcase, interviews and more throughout the Games
  • Coverage also includes: Extensive news, video and information on ESPN.com, ESPN App; Vignette Series across ESPN platforms

ESPN’s global coverage of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, the largest sporting and humanitarian event in 2017, will begin March 18 — just one month away — with a live three-hour special capturing the inspiration, pageantry, performances and special guests of the World Winter Games Opening Ceremony. It marks the first-ever live coverage of the World Winter Games.

From Sunday, March 19, through Friday, March 24, a nightly program – Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 – will bring viewers the stories, competition showcase, interviews and more from Austria.

“Special Olympics reflects all the very best aspects of sports – its power to inspire, forge bonds, build confidence and impact lives,” said Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, ESPN International. “As storytellers and sports lovers, the World Winter Games represents an incredible opportunity for ESPN to showcase amazing stories of perseverance, strength, acceptance and inclusion to a global audience. These are remarkable athletes and we’re extraordinarily excited to tell their stories around the world.”

As an official broadcaster of the Special Olympics World Winter 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 ESPN app and WatchESPN (full schedule below).

“Thanks to our partner ESPN and their unprecedented coverage for a World Winter Games, in less than a month, millions of people will be able to tune in and watch 2,700 athletes from 107 nations around the world compete and share their stories of courage, determination and achievement,” said Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics.  “ESPN’s reach and expertise in storytelling gives us the tremendous opportunity to share how the power of sports and inclusion transforms lives and changes perceptions that exist for people with intellectual disabilities – one of the most marginalized populations in the world.”

ESPN’s coverage will also be carried in 190 countries and territories around the world, including on ESPN television and streaming channels in Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, TSN in Canada, SONY ESPN in India, ESPN on BT Sport in the UK and Ireland, Tencent digital platforms in China (through ESPN’s long-term collaboration with Tencent) and the ESPN Player streaming service in Europe.  Additionally, through syndication, ESPN coverage will appear in dozens of countries and territories. It marks the broadest-reaching coverage ever for a Special Olympics World Winter Games.

Transcending the boundaries of geography, nationality, gender, age, politics, culture and religion, the Special Olympics World Winter Games will bring together more than 2,700 athletes and 1,000 coaches representing 107 countries, along with 10,000 volunteers and thousands of spectators, all in celebration of inclusion and the power of sport. Athletes will compete in Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Floor Hockey, Floorball, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, and Stick Shooting at venues in Schladming-Rohrmoos, Graz and Ramsau, Austria.

Toyota will again be a sponsor of ESPN’s coverage, as it was for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games coverage.

Special Olympics World Winter Games: Opening Ceremony and Nightly Coverage 

ESPN’s coverage of the World Winter Games Opening Ceremony will mark the first-ever complete, live coverage of the star-studded spectacle and will be hosted by Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, ESPN’s Lindsey Czarniak and Kevin Negandhi and ESPN contributor and Special Olympics Global Messenger Dustin Plunkett. ESPN’s Marty Smith will be with the U.S. delegation for the Opening Ceremony, providing reports throughout.

ESPN’s coverage will be live from the Planai Stadium in Schladming-Rohrmoos and will bring viewers the Parade of Athletes, the lighting of the Special Olympics Cauldron, as well as capture performances by multi-Grammy Award-winning musician Jason Mraz, as well as 13-year-old winner of America’s Got Talent, Grace VanderWaal.  It will also feature appearances by Princess Charlene of Monaco, Apolo Ohno, Hannah Teter, Dikembe Mutumbo, Michelle Kwan, Sam Perkins and others.

ESPN’s nightly show – Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017will be produced from on site in Schladming-Rohrmoos, Austria with direct connectivity to ESPN’s Bristol headquarters. Each night, it will also include interviews, features, special guests, a daily “competition showcase” segment, reporting from ESPN’s Jen Lada, Victoria Arlen and Smith.

Throughout both the Opening Ceremony coverage and its nightly show ESPN will tell the remarkable and inspiring individual stories of athletes, coaches and families from around the world in Up Close and Personal” features. “Up Close and Personal” segments were first made famous by the legendary Roone Arledge at ABC Sports and returned to television (for the first time since 1988) with ESPN’s coverage of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.


Special Olympics World Winter Games: ESPN Digital Media

ESPN’s global digital platforms – the world’s leading portfolio of digital sports properties in the world, including local editions of ESPN.com and the ESPN App, streaming platforms and more – will offer extensive coverage in the build-up to, and throughout, the World Winter Games.

ESPN streaming services around the world will carry the coverage of the World Winter Games, including the Watch ESPN in the US, Brazil and Australia, ESPN Play throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and ESPN Player in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

With news, long-form feature storytelling, video, exclusive blogs from athletes, coaches and volunteers, photo galleries and more, ESPN will examine the people and topics of the Special Olympics movement. ESPN’s Melissa Isaacson and Alyssa Roenigk will lead the reporting from on site in Austria with ESPN’s editorial teams from all over the globe contributing to the coverage.

U.S. TV Schedule:  ESPN’s Coverage of Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 

Day/Date Program Time (ET) Network
Sat, Mar 18 LIVE: Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 — Opening Ceremony 2-5 p.m. ABC
Sun, Mar 19 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 2-3 p.m. ABC
Mon, Mar 20 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 6-6:30 p.m. ESPN2
Tue, Mar 21 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 6-7 p.m. ESPN2
Wed, Mar 22 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 6-7 p.m. ESPN2
Thu, Mar 23 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 6-7 p.m. ESPN2
Fri, Mar 24 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 6-7 p.m. ESPN2
Sun, Mar 26 Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 —
Best of the Games
2-3 p.m. ABC

NOTE:   All shows will also be simulcast on the ESPN App and WatchESPN


About Special Olympics World Winter Games Austria 2017
Every two years, Special Olympics holds its flagship event, the World Games, demonstrating sports excellence, which promotes equality, respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Transcending the boundaries of geography, nationality, political philosophy, gender, age, culture and religion, the world will come together to celebrate inclusion around the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz, Schladming-Rohrmoos and Ramsau, Austria 14 March – 25 March 2017. More than 2,700 athletes and 1,000 coaches representing 107 countries, along with 10,000 volunteers and thousands more spectators, will participate in and watch exciting sports and community events. This is the second time Austria has hosted the World Winter Games, having also staged the event in 1993. Sports featured are Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Figure Skating, Speed Skating, Floor Hockey, Floorball, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, and Stick Shooting. For more information on the 2017 Special Olympics World Games, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.austria2017.org and on social on Facebook, and Twitter.

ESPN and Special Olympics
ESPN is proud of its relationship with Special Olympics, which spans more than 31 years and over the past three years, ESPN has continued to deepen its relationship with the Special Olympics movement.

Earlier this year, 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.

The new $1.5 million grant supports 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 1.2 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’s global Special Olympics programming agreement means ESPN is not only an Official Broadcaster of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria, but also the Official Broadcaster of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, and the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games. ESPN is also adding more news and feature coverage of other Special Olympics events, athletes and stories over the course of the three-year agreement

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 www.espn.com/citizenship 

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