Inspired By the Special Olympic World Games


By Rick Seiden, Rise Solutions Group

I had a magical experience working as a volunteer at the 2015 Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles this summer.   I supported basketball at the University of Southern California’s Gayland Center; and while there, I was impressed by how smoothly this and the entire event ran considering there were: 10,000 athletes, 2,000 coaches, 30,000 volunteers from nearly 200 countries.

I kept saying to my fellow Special Olympic volunteers, “I’m amazed how they pulled these games off; the coordination of such an event is overwhelming!”

At the Olympic Games, like the recent ones in London and Sochi, Russia, organizers dealt with world class athletes familiar with international travel challenges and the obstacles involved with getting to and from their homes to the games and their venue once in country.  At the Special Olympic World Games (the Games), this was the first time many of these athletes had ever been on an airplane, let alone out of their country – now throw in the complications of traveling and then participating with intellectual and physical disabilities into the mix…

Upon arrival, next consider the years of planning required to support numerous languages, dozens of different cultures, and variety of transportation, food and lodgings needed to move, feed and house some 40,000 people in the second largest city in the United States…

Finally, consider the spectrum of special needs that the athletes have from dietary constraints, religious considerations, medications and medical issues and more…Now, combine all of these factors together and you have what some would consider a logistical impossibility!

As someone in the IT industry and a user of many of the systems at the World Games, I was wondering how on earth they coordinated all of this and then pulled it off so seamlessly.  I was also impressed with how many companies like Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Toyota, Deloitte, Google, ABC/ESPN, The Walt Disney Company, Mattel, UPS and many, many other supported the Games.

I was so intrigued, that upon returning to my home in the Washington, DC area, I reached out to the Special Olympics Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Noah Broadwater to ask and he told me the Special Olympics IT story.

Mr. Broadwater provided so much excellent data that we have decided to feature a series of blogs in order to cover all of the different topics and areas of technology that helped take the games from concept to reality.

Below are a few of the topics we will cover:

1) Game Management System: All about the program that they used to organize the games.

2) Registration & Credentialing:  Why this was so tough, what technology helped and how.

3) Digital – Web/App:  All that went into getting this up and running – starting 1 year ahead.  The problems during the games and how they solved these issues.

4)  Healthcare:  This is a very large topic.  We plan on interviewing a few other key players Mr. Broadwater directed us to over the next few weeks in order to get the full scope of this undertaking and how technology helped organize and facilitate the Games, ensure athletes and spectators knew where to be and when and also how technology supported the different health initiatives underway during the games.

5)  Partnerships: We will discuss how companies like:

  • Microsoft
  • Ardian
  • Docusign
  • Vecna

…were core to the technologies used at the Games.

Our upcoming blog series will explain how cloud-based technology provided a real-time communication hub, how a mobile app and website were used for event coordination, all the way to how some athletes even saw a doctor and dentist for the first time thanks to the games and the processes introduced.