The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games and Solodev Drive Deeper Fan and Athlete Engagement with Mobile App on AWS

Executive Summary

AWS Partner Solodev worked closely with the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games to build a new mobile fan engagement app based on the Solodev Serverless platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The new app relies on AWS serverless technologies such as AWS Fargate and simplifies development, engages fans and athletes, and supports thousands of concurrent users with zero downtime.

Improving the Fan and Athlete Experience

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, held in Orlando, Florida, in June 2022, brought together more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean to compete in swimming, running, golf, and other sports. The Games are presented every four years by the Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

In the months leading up to the 2022 Games, the Special Olympics wanted to improve the athlete and fan experience by creating a new mobile app. “We wanted to reach people in a new and meaningful way with a fan engagement app that offered a fully immersive experience,” says Lonnie Snyder, chief information officer for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. “We envisioned an app that helped families follow athletes and find transportation and event information while enabling athletes to view game schedules and venue locations and get real-time medal notifications.”

The Special Olympics needed to develop and launch the app quickly to be ready for the competition, and it also had to gain the scalability to support thousands of concurrent users. “We wanted to make things easy for our developers so they wouldn’t have to worry about maintaining an IT or development environment. And we also wanted more than 135,000 attendees to be able to use the app and not wait more than a second to get the information they need,” Snyder says. “For these reasons, it made the most sense to use a cloud solution.”

"We wanted to use technology to draw people in and engage them in a meaningful way, and we were able to accomplish that with Solodev and AWS."

- Lonnie Snyder, Chief Information Officer, 2022 Special Olympics USA Games

Building a Mobile Fan Engagement App with Solodev Serverless on AWS

To power its mobile fan engagement experience in the cloud, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games engaged Solodev, an AWS Partner. Solodev provided the AWS expertise to help both the USA Games technology team and its development partner, ATS, deploy the right cloud strategy to meet the app’s requirements. “We knew we would engage a third party for assistance, but we were concerned about how we were going to build the app and host it successfully in the cloud,” says Snyder. “Solodev reassured us by talking about some cutting-edge technologies in AWS that were serverless and container-based to automate development and scalability.”

Because the Special Olympics is a nonprofit organization with budgetary limitations, Solodev knew it needed to help implement a cost-effective solution. “Because of budget concerns, I knew the Special Olympics had to be nimble and agile in terms of development,” says Matt Garrepy, chief digital officer at Solodev. “This fits in with the way AWS supports the design of modern apps in the cloud as architecturally modular and automating critical processes.”

Solodev deployed Solodev Serverless, a serverless solution powered by AWS Fargate, which automates orchestration for containerized apps and lets developers concentrate on building apps instead of managing deployment, provisioning, and scalability. The Solodev Serverless stack is deployed using AWS CloudFormation and includes services such as Amazon CloudWatch for system monitoring. “All the services launch automatically through AWS CloudFormation and are designed to scale together to meet the organization’s low latency and on-demand scalability needs,” says Garrepy.

Solodev also leveraged its AWS partnership to help the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games access AWS funding through the AWS IMAGINE Grant, a public grant for nonprofits who are using the cloud to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. As a result of its work with Solodev, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games built and launched a mobile fan engagement app in time for the June 2022 competition.

Simplifying Development and Automating Orchestration

By relying on Solodev Serverless on AWS, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games and its development team spent more time building features and not managing infrastructure. “AWS serverless technology unlocks the opportunity for developers to focus squarely on functionality by automating the process of pushing releases and versions out and not worrying about rightsizing instances,” Garrepy says.

Throughout the app testing process prior to the launch of the Games, developers had flexibility to explore how integrations worked together before deploying the app to production. Garrepy explains, “We ran scenarios and load tests prior to launch, and everything worked flawlessly. This gave us a lot of confidence going into the Games.”

Special Olympics USA Games 2022

Credit: Special Olympics USA Games

Engaging Athletes and Fans through a Seamless Event Experience

Working with Solodev and taking advantage of Solodev Serverless, the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games created and deployed a mobile app that engaged fans and athletes throughout the eight-day competition. For example, the app enables users to easily find and follow athletes across competitions, send cheers or messages of encouragement to specific athletes, and access a system for shortening wait times for medical screenings. The app also offered comprehensive scheduling and wayfinding software via immersive mapping and navigation. “We wanted to delight and amaze athletes and make them feel like heroes because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them. We wanted to use technology to draw people in and engage them in a meaningful way, and we were able to accomplish that with Solodev and AWS,” Snyder says.

Supporting Thousands of Concurrent Users with Zero Downtime

During the Games, the Solodev Serverless solution scaled seamlessly to support thousands of downloads and experienced no downtime throughout the event. “We had 16,000 people open the app in the first minute of the competition, and everything worked flawlessly right away,” says Snyder. “That continued throughout the Games.”

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games also reduced its development and operating costs, a key benefit for the nonprofit organization. Using Solodev Serverless on AWS, the Games reduced costs by up to 82 percent by eliminating the need for hardware and management.

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games is now taking advantage of repeatable processes on Solodev Serverless to build on its fan engagement platform for the 2026 Games in Minnesota. “We now get to take our app to the next level in 2026 by engaging on an even deeper level with fans and athletes,” concludes Snyder, who will serve as chief technology and information officer for the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games. “We are excited to see what comes next from working with Solodev and AWS.”

Special Olympics USA Games

About the Special Olympics USA Games

Every four years, thousands of athletes gather to compete in swimming, running, golf, and other sports during the Special Olympics USA Games. The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, and it provides year-round training and activities for more than 5 million participants in 172 countries.

About Solodev

Solodev, an AWS Partner, offers a large ecosystem of cloud and digital experience technologies—from containers and metaverse to content and AI. The company also provides consulting, training, managed services, and 24/7 human support to help users succeed on their cloud journeys.

Published December 2022