A renovated Husky Stadium hosted the opening ceremony of the second games
The games motto was "Uniting the World's Best", and a total of 2312 athletes from 54 countries engaged in the 17-day program of 21 sports. Each countries' contingent of athletes did not parade separately at the opening ceremony, but instead all athletes entered the stadium as one large mass (emphasizing the theme of international unity). The size of the sporting program meant that some events were held in the cities surrounding Seattle, including: Tacoma, Spokane and others in the Tri-Cities area. A number of venues in the region were built or renovated for the Games: Federal Way gained an aquatics venue (King County Aquatic Center) through the games while Seattle itself gained a new track for Husky Stadium and new flooring for the Edmundson Pavilion. The Seattle Space Needle had a large purpose-built gold medal hung around the structure during the Games.
The competition featured a significant cultural aspect compared to the previous edition. Around 1400 Soviet athletes came to the US and stayed with host families in Seattle. Soviet cosmonauts also came to the city and visited schools, and the Moscow State Circus gave a number of performances. A Goodwill Games Arts Festival was held in conjunction with the sporting event – 1300 artists took part in the festival, which featured a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet, a museum exhibition of Soviet history, and a 2 million-dollarstage production of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. Similar to the 1986 Goodwill Games, the 1990 edition of the event was not financially successful and Ted Turner personally lost $44 million as a result.
A total of 54 nations were represented at the 1990 Games with a total of 2312 athletes attending the games. However, around 3500 athletes had received invitations to the games and the attendance was a marked decline from the inaugural edition.