The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will be hosted this summer in Seattle, with more than 4,000 athletes and coaches representing 50 states and the District of Columbia. Jason Schriml of the Special Olympics USA Games
discussed the impact the games and this organization that highlights athletes with intellectual disabilities through highly competitive sports, uplifting experiences, and demonstrating inclusion for all.
Traynham: An athlete is defined as a person who is proficient in sports. Around the world, there are almost five million athletes with intellectual disabilities whose lives are being transformed through the joy of competition. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. All eyes will soon be on these athletes. And Jason Schriml from the Special Olympics USA Games is here to tell us all about it. Jason, welcome to the program.
Schriml: Thanks so much for having me.
Traynham: I love these topics, and I love watching the Special Olympics. Walk us through specifically what´s gonna be happening this year. As I understand it, this year, this summer in July, the Olympics -- well, Special Olympics -- will take place in Seattle, Washington.
Schriml: Yeah, so we have a national games called the USA Games. This is our fourth one that we´ve had, the others being in Iowa, Nebraska, and New Jersey. And so this will be the first time we´ve made it all the way out to the West Coast, and Seattle´s gonna be hosting a large number of athletes from 50 states in a variety of sports. And this is our kind of signature event that we do every four years. And this year, that event will actually be used -- the medalists from that event will be used to go to the next level, which will be the World Games. -
Traynham: Outstanding. So before we talk about the specifics of the sport, why Seattle? You mentioned first time out west. Do you literally move around the country every four years? How does that work?
Schriml: Yeah, there´s a bid process, just like the Olympics and the Paralympics. We go through a bid process, and cities or states bid on if they´d like to host the games, and they put a package together. And they´re met with our Special Olympics North America and Special Olympics Incorporated, and then they kind of decide the factors that are necessary for a successful games. And Seattle has all of those, especially with the University of Washington and Seattle University and a lot of venues in close proximity, so...
Traynham: Wonderful, wonderful to hear. I´m gonna mention a few statistics here, which I think are very inspiring. 14 team and individual sports will be offered, including swimming, flag football, and soccer. 10,000 volunteers will be recruited to support the games, and 10,000 family members and friends. And 70,000 spectators are expected over the course of the week. Again, very inspiring in many ways.
Schriml: It is. Seattle has really embraced these games in a way, I think, that we haven´t seen before because there´s a whole community that´s trying to embrace inclusivity. You know, every athlete who has intellectual disability is part of our community wherever we live, and Seattle is working hard as people, as a city, as businesses, and as sponsors to make that even greater -- a greater opportunity for being inclusive for all people.
Traynham: Sure. Jason, to compete in the Special Olympics, is it very similar to the Olympics that we know of? In other words, you have to qualify for time trials or be proficient in your craft. Is that how it works typically?
Schriml: There are similarities. You have to -- In order to go to the next level, you have to have earned a gold medal in that particular sport. The difference is, there´s not necessarily a time trial, but for each state, you -- for these games, we get an allotment of a certain sport. Gold medalists go into a hat rather than the top so that every athlete of every ability who has achieved a gold medal in their division has an equal opportunity to attend, so...
Traynham: Very nice. Two last questions for you. I´m curious. We often hear about the Olympic athletes after the Olympics. You know, they go on to become, you know, a spokesperson for, you know, some water, whatever the case may be. What happens to a lot of the athletes after the Special Olympics? I´m just curious to know what their next chapter is.
Schriml: I think their next chapter is realizing that they have the ability to travel cross country, to stay on their own. It gives them confidence and skills. They are part of a team. They collect all those things that we want sport to teach us, all the good things we want sport to teach us, internalize them, and then bring them to places like perhaps their workplace or back to their community where they´re like, "The world is bigger than I am, and I want to give back."
Traynham: Very nice. As I mentioned before, as I understand it, the Special Olympics will be from July 1st through the 6th in Seattle, Washington. For the folks that are watching at home or perhaps from their smart device, is there any way they can log in? Is there any place that they can go? If they physically can´t go to Washington state, where can they go to perhaps maybe watch the Olympics, or, quite frankly, to see the awarded recipients?
Schriml: Yeah, if you go to www.specialolympicsusagames.org, right now, they have all the venues up and the sports that we´re doing. But as we enter into the games and there´s an opening ceremony, there will be opportunities to see that, to see live, real-time results for your favorite state, whoever you´re supporting, and you´ll be able to watch videos, and we´ll be all over social media, as well.
Traynham: Very nice. Such an inspiration. Jason Schriml with the Special Olympics. Thank you very much for joining us.
Schriml: Thank you.
Traynham: And, of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham. Have a great day.