The Capital Region will become the center of the women’s sports universe this week when the inaugural Aurora Games begin Tuesday at Times Union Center and Albany Capital Center in Albany.
Over 150 athletes from two dozen countries are expected to participate in seven sports in a battle of Team Americas (North and South America) vs. Team World.
The Aurora Games were conceived by Jerry Solomon, who is the husband of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan.
“The inspiration is that I have been in this business for a long time,” Solomon said. “I’ve represented a lot of athletes, males and females. I was watching the 2016 Rio [Summer] Olympic Games, at which I was representing Kayla Harrison, who went on to win her second consecutive gold medal in judo, and I was realizing that there were more women on the U.S. Olympic Team than men for the first time in history.
"But as the Olympics were going on, the stories were predominately about the men, and the men were getting most of the coverage. It didn’t make sense to me because I really thought the women were doing better. I said to a few people that it’s time. I think the women can stand on their own. I think they should stand on their own. I think it’s time for an event that is all about the women, that it’s not putting the women under the umbrella of the men, where they get compared to how the men are doing and playing. That’s where it really came from.”
The start of the Aurora Games comes a month after the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup in France. Solomon believes the Games can benefit from that.
“I think it’s one of those things where rising tides lift all boats,” Solomon said. “I think what’s good for the American women’s soccer team is good for all of the world’s women’s sports events, athletes and activities. I think it’s all moving in a very positive direction, but the fact is that it’s starting from such a ridiculously low base. As we’ve gotten into all this, we’ve found out things that, even though I’ve been in the sports business for a long time, I didn’t even realize, for example, that women’s sports only get 4 percent of the press coverage, and only 4 percent of the sponsorship dollars globally as compared to men’s sports. Four percent is nothing. That’s a disparity that’s just so out of whack.”
Here are some things you need to know about the Aurora Games.
There are some big names who will be involved in the Aurora Games.
Let’s start with the honorary team captains. Jackie Joyner-Kersee will captain the Team Americas, while Nadia Comaneci is captain of Team World.
Joyner-Kersee participated in four Summer Olympics was a three-time gold-medal winner. She dominated the Olympic heptathlon and long jump events, winning six Olympic medals overall. Joyner-Kersee was the first woman in history to earn more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon and still holds the world heptathlon record she set more than 30 years ago at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Comaneci burst onto the scene at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. The Romanian gymnast recorded the first-ever prefect 10 for her routine. She was 14 years old. She went on to win nine Olympic medals, five of them gold, during her career.
One participant who will garner some attention is gymnast Katelyn Ohashi. The former UCLA standout earned national attention earlier this year at the Collegiate Challenge in Anaheim, California, on Jan. 12, when she got a perfect 10 for her floor routine. The performance ended up on social media and has received over 120 million views.
Also, gymnast McKenna Kelley, daughter of 1984 Summer Olympics gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, will compete for Team Americas.
In tennis, Garbine Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon titles, will play for Team World, while Team Americas will have Bianca Andreescu, who recently won the Rogers Cup title.
In figure skating, Mirai Nagasu, the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics, and 13-year-old Alysa Liu, the youngest U.S. women’s figure skating champion in history, will compete for Team Americas.
Actress Olivia Munn will host the Opening Ceremonies before the tennis competition Tuesday.
Here is the schedule for the Games. All events start at 7 p.m. at Times Union Center, except where noted.
Tuesday – Tennis. Wednesday – Gymnastics. Thursday – Basketball. Friday – Ice hockey. Saturday – Table tennis, noon, Albany Capital Center; figure skating, 1 p.m.; Sunday – Beach volleyball, 11 a.m.; Table tennis, 11:30 a.m., Albany Capital Center.
ESPNU and ESPN3 will televise the Games. ESPNU will have coverage of tennis, gymnastics, basketball, figure skating and beach volleyball.
ESPN3, which is available on your computer, tablet and smartphone, will carry all of the events.
Even though the Travers Stakes takes place Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, Solomon doesn’t think the horse race will take attention away from the Games.
“The Travers actually is a plus because it brings a lot of people into the area,” Solomon said. “The Travers Stakes takes two minutes, so they’re going to have a lot of time on their hands. Maybe they will come check us out. We do not have an event up against the Travers.”
If the score between Team Americas and Team World is tied after beach volleyball, the results of table tennis, which is being competed as an exhibition sport, will be used as the tiebreaker to determine the winner of the Games.
On Twitter, follow Associate Sports Editor Ken Schott @slapschotts and Daily Gazette Sports @dgazettesports. Email Schott at [email protected]. Listen to “The Parting Schotts Podcast” at https://dailygazette.com/sports/partingschotts.