Behind The ScenesSpecial Olympics

Robin Roberts’ Special Olympics preview is a labor of love

Tonight’s programming block on ESPN:
7:30 p.m. ET: SportsCenter’s “My Wish”
8:30 p.m.: Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards
9:00 p.m.: Countdown to the Special Olympics World Games with Robin Roberts

Tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, Countdown to the Special Olympics World Games with Robin Roberts will debut – teeing up the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. The hour-long special delivers a first look at some of the moving stories of passion, perseverance and purpose. It will also re-air this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on ABC and at 8 p.m. on ESPN leading into ESPN’s live coverage of the Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony.

With her love of sports and storytelling, Roberts highlights several of the inspiring athletes and talks to some of the heroes who have brought Special Olympics to the world. Front Row caught up with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and former SportsCenter anchor Roberts to talk with her about the show and the Special Olympics.

What inspired this project?
The first time I was a volunteer for Special Olympics was in the 1980s in my home state of Mississippi. I also served for a time on the Board of Directors for Connecticut Special Olympics. I was thrilled when ESPN asked me to host the World Games Opening Ceremony. Given my background with Special Olympics I thought the Countdown special would be a wonderful opportunity to highlight these deserving athletes. I also wanted people to have a better understanding of what Special Olympics is all about.

Which of the profiles did you find particularly inspiring? Did something connect with you above and beyond others?
I found each one inspiring. They are about amazing Special Olympic athletes and their loving families celebrating all that they have accomplished together. The focus is on our different abilities and not what are thought to be disabilities.

How did you balance your duties with Good Morning America and the production of Countdown and preparation for the Opening Ceremony hosting duties?
I now fully understand the phrase “labor of love.” It was challenging balancing my duties at GMA with the production of this show and preparing to host the Opening Ceremony. When you have so much going on it’s important to solely focus on the task directly in front of you. When I’m in the studio for GMA, it has my total attention. When I was working on Countdown, I was thinking of nothing else. The same goes for when I’m prepping for the Opening Ceremony. And I’ll be the first to admit that it takes a village. I have a fabulous team at Rock’n Robin Productions. My colleagues at GMA and ESPN are incredibly supportive. There’s no way I could do all that I’m blessed to do without the help of many talented people by my side.

How did you learn of Brooklyn Decker’s story?
Someone mentioned Brooklyn’s story to me but said she rarely talked about it in interviews. When we contacted her she could not have been more excited to participate. She trusted that we would tell the story of her beloved Aunt Tara with the respect it richly deserves. It’s an absolutely beautiful story of love and family.

What have you seen in terms of interest and engagement on this project across Disney, ABC and ESPN?
I recently celebrated 25 years at ABC and ESPN. Working on this project has been the perfect anniversary gift. It reminds me why I’m so proud to be a part of the Disney family. Across the board, everyone and every platform has embraced this project. The support has been tremendous and genuine. We’ve approached it as the major sports and humanitarian event that it is. The World Games embody the true Olympic spirit. Let the Games begin!

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