Special Olympics athletes are known for their competitive spirit and indomitable will in achieving their personal best. With more than 4.4 million athletes in over 170 countries worldwide, Special Olympics is opening doors and creating opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities on and off the field of play.
So, it’s fitting that Special Olympics is joining forces with a group of people known for empowering people to do more and achieve more: Microsoft. Today, Special Olympics and Microsoft are becoming partners on a technological initiative that will greatly enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
With the help of Microsoft, we will be revolutionizing the information technology system that collects and analyzes the important data that our athletes generate. These are data on their health, fitness, sports participation, and personal bests, along with results and scores from the 81,000 Special Olympics competitions that take place around the world each year. Our “Games Management System” or GMS has served us well for two decades, but it is in dire need of an overhaul. These are just a few of the game-changing improvements that Microsoft will help us with, while maintaining the strictest personal data privacy standards:
- For the first time ever, athletes will be able to easily record and track their sports performance and personal bests.
- Special Olympics program operating in 170 countries around the globe will be able to share their data within our Movement in real time, creating a constant flow of information that will provide us with the insights we need to ensure our resources are directed where they are most needed and are being utilized in the most effective manner.
- Athletes, coaches and other members of our Movement will have digital access to key data through their mobile device. And that includes the one million Special Olympics athletes in China and the one million in India.
- We will be able to analyze the fitness status, athletic performance and health needs of people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics is not just an inclusive sports organization: it is the largest public health organization focused on people with intellectual disabilities, who are one of the most medically-underserved and neglected populations on the planet.
Let me give you just one example of how the new IT systems that Microsoft will help us create will benefit our athletes. Special Olympics is incredibly important to athlete Carla Simon from Arizona. It’s not just the sports – though she is passionate about athletics, competing in eleven different sports. It’s also the friends, the empowerment, and the sense of belonging. However, Carla struggles, as many of us do, with her weight. She struggled to run more than one lap or stay on the basketball court. Through a new fitness program at Special Olympics Arizona with digital components, Carla lost 30 pounds. We know, because she wrote to us about how much better she feels and how improved her sports performance is. Imagine if all our athletes and coaches had access to an integrated platform that would support entering, tracking, and analyzing information on health, fitness, nutrition, sports participation, and athletic performance.
Now, thanks to Microsoft, athletes, coaches and families will have rapid access to useful information about their scores, times, personal bests, fitness and health. Special Olympics can use this capability to dramatically improve the lives of people in our Movement.
Our new partner Microsoft believes in and practices “Technology for Good.” And because we are Special Olympics, with that competitive and indomitable spirit I mentioned above, we are excited to start using technology for greatness.