Press Releases

Special Olympics and Microsoft team up to build global inclusive esports

Athletes with and without intellectual disabilities will compete in inaugural Gaming for Inclusion 12 – 18 September
Special Olympics Gaming for Inclusion together with Microsoft lead artwork.

10 AUGUST – WASHINGTON, D.C., USA: Special Olympics announced the launch of the inaugural esports experience Gaming for Inclusion presented by Microsoft. From 12 – 14 September, Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners will compete in Rocket League, Madden NFL 22, and Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox for the chance to play alongside celebrity supporters of Special Olympics, including NBA superstar Jayson Tatum, NFL legend Jamaal Charles, and WWE Superstars on 18 September.

This experience is the next evolution of the award-winning Xbox Virtual Gaming Event hosted in May 2020, when Special Olympics and Microsoft collaborated on a virtual esports tournament to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation brought on by the pandemic. The event won Microsoft the Corporate Community Impact Award at the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards presented by ESPN for using its platform and the power of sport to create meaningful social change.

“COVID-19 and the suspension hundreds of thousands of annual in-person events worldwide meant Special Olympics had to pivot to supporting virtual experiences. Our digital transformation partners at Microsoft brought their expertise in developing scalable and accessible digital platforms that allow people of all abilities to build connections with others through the universal language of gaming. Together, we've shaped an innovative program that will last well beyond the pandemic.”
Prianka Nandy, Chief Information and Technology Officer at Special Olympics

The virtual multi-day, multi-game esports tournament will engage and connect people of all abilities from around the world. Special Olympics and Microsoft are teaming up to host the inaugural Gaming for Inclusion esports experience to showcase the power of inclusion through sport.

“We’re ecstatic to build upon Microsoft’s partnership with Special Olympics, which first began in 2014, to further focus on gaming and host Gaming for Inclusion. At Xbox, our goal is to make gaming inclusive and welcoming to all players so that everyone can experience the joys of gaming. This tournament is a meaningful and important step in making esports more accessible and it empowers Special Olympics athletes with a new way to compete.”
Jenn Panattoni, Head of Xbox Social Impact

The bracket-style tournaments will crown champions for each title. All gaming competition will be hosted through Microsoft’s esports platform Smash.gg. Spectators can live stream the events on the Xbox Twitch channel and the Special Olympics YouTube channel:

  • Sunday 12 September: Rocket League Tournament
  • Monday 13 September: Forza Motorsport 7 Tournament
  • Tuesday 14 September: Madden NFL 22 Tournament
  • Saturday 18 September: Celebrity Showcase with winners from tournaments earlier in the week

After the inaugural event, Special Olympics Programs will have training on how to set up local tournaments through Smash.gg, allowing for year-round gaming practice and competition and preparation for the 2022 Gaming for Inclusion experience.

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

Media Contact
Special Olympics
+1 (202) 816-0891
Microsoft
Sophie Orlando