2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee season to launch June 12

Three live telecasts of virtual rounds in lead-up to July 8 in-person finals.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, America’s largest and longest-running educational program dominated for a dozen years by Indian Americans, is back  this summer after a year of hiatus due to covid pandemic.

Starting with the first round on June 12, the final rounds of this year’s Bee will be hosted in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, on July 8, the Bee announced Tuesday.

The national finals of the program were cancelled in 2020 for first time since the World War II years (1943-1945), according to the Bee.

The 2021 finals, featuring 10-12 accomplished spellers, will be broadcast live in primetime on ESPN2.

The 10 to 12 finalists who will travel to Orlando will be determined by a series of virtual spelling rounds that will be held in the lead-up to the July 8 finals: the preliminaries, quarterfinals and semifinals.

Each of the virtual rounds of the competition will be broadcast on ESPN platforms, beginning June 12 with the preliminaries and concluding June 27 with the semifinals.

“It will be an excitement-building sequence for the spellers and the audiences watching at home as the action and suspense of ‘speller versus the dictionary’ plays out over several weeks of competition this year,” said Dr. J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Bee.

“Last year was challenging for so many as we learned to cope with the pandemic. Now, as pandemic guidelines across the country continue to evolve, we’ve charted a path for the 2021 competition and national finals activities by taking enhanced health and safety measures for the spellers, their families and the team of people who support and produce the Bee.

“I’m proud of the program and our safety teams that have worked so diligently to give spellers an opportunity to show off their skills this year while promoting a fun and safe experience for all involved.”

As the country continues to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, the in-person portion of the competition at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney will follow protocols based on guidance from health authorities for social distancing and masking, the Bee said.

Scripps also is reviewing its COVID-19-related health and safety measures with medical experts at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to help facilitate an environment that promotes the well-being of all, it said.

The official Scripps National Spelling Bee live broadcast schedule:

Preliminaries: Saturday, June 12, 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN3

Quarterfinals: Tuesday, June 15, noon-6 p.m. on ESPN3

Semifinals: Sunday, June 27, 7-11 p.m. on ESPN2 (Play Along version on ESPNU)

Finals: Thursday, July 8, 8-10 p.m. on ESPN2 (Play Along version on ESPNU)


For the first time since World War II, there won’t be a Scripps National Spelling Bee champ this year (April 21, 2020)

Covid-19: Scripps National Spelling Bee 2020 canceled (April 2, 2020)

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