Ode to the 300

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 16, 2015 – History has honored the stand of Spartan king Leonidas and 300 Spartans – plus their allies – who defended against the invasion of a much larger force of Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E.

Through the centuries, the battle has become a rallying cry for what a small group can achieve, even against long odds, thanks to good circumstances, training and, above all, will.

So it is appropriate to honor approximately the same number of people who overcame significant obstacles this last summer to stage the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. Consider:

When the Games were awarded to Los Angeles in 2011, the bid documents foresaw an organization of 823 full-time staff and up to 40,000 volunteers.

The World Games would use existing facilities to keep costs down to a modest $104.6 million (in 2011 dollars) for the entire project.

When the Games came in 2015, the reality was that the full-time staff numbered 428, with 143 of those (33.4%) added within the last 50 days before the Games. The volunteer corps numbered 8,560, from a total of 29,616 applications received online.

Moreover, the cost of the Games was continuously lowered to meet available resources. The final Games budget was $66 million, with $50 million in cash and $16 of budget-relieving in-kind services.

Regardless of these realities, the World Games were a resounding, even transformative success. The profile of Special Olympics and its cause, to raise awareness and promote inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities, was aided immeasurably by the worldwide audience which saw, read or was otherwise touched by the Games.

How did this happen?

First and foremost, it was the people involved. The LA2015 organizing committee team, just 285 people at the end of May, believed it would be successful and is was. There were breakdowns in multiple areas, but none of these doomed the Games. Instead, there were noteworthy achievements in multiple areas that became the foundation of its success:

The Host Town program, in which 97 communities from San Luis Obispo to San Diego hosted Special Olympics delegations, was a stunning, loving and emotional welcome for athletes, coaches and officials, many of whom had never been to the United States before.

The accommodations for the 6,163 athletes from 164 nations and the 2,651 coaches and officials accompanying them were excellent, using the student residences at UCLA and USC.

Competitions held in 25 sports at 11 different sites – but primarily at three major hubs at the Los Angeles Convention Center, UCLA and USC – ran nicely and, for the most part, without incident.

Spectator attendance at the World Games shattered all expectations – and records. An estimated total of 247,247 spectators saw the events, plus the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Every event was free, except for the Opening Ceremony. Another 100,000-plus attended the free festivals at UCLA and USC, which were packed daily for entertainment, games and awards.

Worldwide news media coverage also shattered all records, with 1,728 media from 79 nations credentialed for the Games and 1,514 actually on-site (some foreign media could not get entry visas). They sent back thousands of stories and pictures, aided by an LA2015 initiative that placed 23,108 royalty-free photographs on a special Flickr site for worldwide media use.

Television coverage by ESPN may have changed the World Games forever. When LA2015 president and chief executive Patrick McClenahan convinced ESPN in 2014 to show 10 hours of the Games, it was an achievement. But ESPN aired 38 hours of coverage that was seen by more than 20.1 million Americans alone, with partners in more than 20 countries and Games availability in 170 countries.

The digital-media impact of the Games also reached new heights, with 2.9 billion digital impressions during the Games period, 2.05 million visits to the LA2015 Web site and 190,456 social-media followers and subscribers for the Games.

A core team of about 300 people made this happen. To record their achievements (and the challenges), a five-volume Retrospective of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games has been produced at the request of LA2015 by Perelman, Pioneer & Co., and will be permanently hosted in a few months, on the LA84 Foundation Web site (www.LA84.org).

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Until then, we have links to it here (all files are in PDF):

Volume 1: Retrospective
A review of the arrangements, challenges and outcomes of the LA2015 Games Organizing Committee in attracting, creating and executing the first Special Olympics World Summer Games held in the United States in the 21st Century.

Volume 2: Memories
A photographic essay of the Games experience, compiled primarily from the 23,108 photographs created by the LA2015 Digital Strategy photo documentation team.

Volume 3: Gallery
A sampling of LA2015 advertisements and promotional graphics created by design director Jon De Ring, design coordinator Monique Yniquez and staff: in Part A and Part B.

Volume 4: Games Design and Signage Guide
A detailed review, in an extra-large format, of the remarkably successful environmental design and signage program managed by Look & Signage director Jim Casares. Due to its size, this volume is offered in three parts : Part A, Part B and Part C.

Volume 5: Results
Condensed summaries of the results of each sport as provided by the Games Management System (GMS) and edited for style by Isabel Cervello, vice president for Sports & Games Technology Management.

It was a remarkable Games, thanks to the tremendous athletes and delegates who competed and those who supported them. And the 300 or so who stood behind the scenes and would not let the Games fail. To them, and the volunteers, contractors and officials who helped, the LA2015 World Games Retrospective is published in your honor.

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