Sports bring people together. For athletes with intellectual disabilities, the quadrennial (once every four years) Special Olympics USA Games event unites communities across the country and gives athletes the chance to participate in Olympic-type sports. The USA Games are a celebration of passion, perseverance, and inclusion in sports as well as beyond the playing field.
Four years ago, Amazon sponsored the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games closing ceremony in Seattle, Washington. This year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Organizing Committee are adding to the legacy with an interactive mobile application that will bring athletes, coaches, families, and fans together throughout the week-long event.
The new app, a winning project of the AWS IMAGINE Grant program, uses cloud technologies to redefine and enhance attendees’ experiences at the event. For instance, the app customizes schedules to allow fans to find and follow their favorite athletes. It also livestreams ceremonies and competitions, and provides transportation schedules and guidance to help athletes navigate the event spaces. While some functionalities might sound familiar to sports fans, this is the first time these capabilities are available for the Special Olympics.
The app also builds a customized hero profile for every athlete, and fans can send virtual cheers to encourage and celebrate individual athlete’s accomplishments throughout the Games. When asked about the app’s design process, Chief Information Officer of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Lonnie Snyder said, “This [app] represents what every human on planet Earth needs. Everyone wants to feel valued and supported. Everyone wants to find purpose and meaning. From there, we bucketed the needs into five key areas and came up with some concepts.”
An image of a person wearing a baseball helmet and uniform giving a thumbs up. The background shows other people in the same uniform doing a handshake.
The app will also directly impact the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program—the world’s largest public health program for people with intellectual disabilities. The app will streamline athletes’ access to 12,000 complimentary health screenings during the event.
First of its kind in the event’s 54-year history, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games app will jump-start digital transformation for the global Special Olympics community. Developers for subsequent Special Olympics programs—from local affiliates to the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games—will have access to app components as open source.
“The key opportunity here is that we’re getting to change the future of Special Olympics globally,” said Snyder.
On June 5, more than 5,500 U.S. delegates from all 50 states and, for the first time, Caribbean nations will convene in Orlando, Florida, along with 20,000 volunteers and 125,000 spectators. This year’s athletes will participate in the largest Special Olympics USA Games in history. For Florida, this will be the largest humanitarian event in its history. “What gets me most excited is seeing the faces of the athletes and the delegation members as they get off the plane," said Snyder. "Seeing these world-class venues, layering that on top of the technology we’re building—the participants will feel like professional athletes.”
For more information, visit the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games page. Check out the AWS Fix This podcast for our interview with Lonnie Snyder on this year’s Special Olympics USA Games and the mobile app.