The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle demonstrated the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities through world-class competition. Held from 1-6 July, the games promoted the ideals of inclusion through sport. The USA Games kicked off with an Opening Ceremony that saw a record-breaking number of fans in the stand with 45,000 attendees at University of Washington Husky Stadium.
The five day event included nearly 4,000 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They competed in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports, making it the biggest sporting event to hit the Seattle area in more than 25 years. Over 7,400 medals and ribbons were awarded to athletes and Unified partners. A total of 15,000 volunteers and 102,200 spectators showed their support for the athletes.
The Games in Seattle made history thanks to ESPN. For the first time ever, nationwide television audiences witnessed the excitement of opening ceremonies and daily competitions. Other notable highlights for the 2018 Games included:
- The first high-performance sporting divisions allowing top-tier athletes to compete with one another and immediately qualify for the 2019 World Games
- The highest percentage of Unified competition participation with 39% registered to complete in Unified Sports
- The first Interscholastic (high school) Unified Competition and Intercollegiate Collegiate College/University Unified Competition
More than 1,760 competitors took advantage of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes facilities and health care providers for a total of 7,125 screenings in seven disciplines. On the provider side, 35 new clinical directors were trained in seven Healthy Athletes disciplines.
YOUTH LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE
For the first time at USA games, youth leaders were embedded at the games at every level. They acted as key volunteers at the Young Athletes Festival and other special events; and shadowed ESPN staff, technical delegates, HODs, select sponsors, Games leadership and SONA leaders.
Overall, 111 youth leaders from 37 programs attended the Games including 74 Unified Youth Leaders and one mentor. Many of them participated in the first-ever career development discussions that were held with partners in medical, education, health, university and sports management disciplines. Hasbro and the U.S. Dept. of Education/OSEP praised the program growth since 2008.