Comaneci, Joyner-Kersee will be captains at Aurora Games
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — When asked last year to be part of a new sports and entertainment festival aimed at celebrating the power of women in sports, Olympic champion gymnast Nadia Comaneci was all in.
“It’s a great idea,” said Comaneci, who won five Olympic gold medals and is best remembered for being the first Olympic gymnast to record a perfect 10. “It’s wonderful to have an idea, but it’s much more wonderful to be able to put it in place. We’ve been talking about women’s sports for a long time. I don’t think it actually got the position that it deserves in celebrating the history of what women in sports have done through the years.
“Hopefully, this is going to get bigger and bigger and everybody will know about the history and celebrate the history, celebrate what women can do.”
The 57-year-old Comaneci, who became a star at the 1976 Montreal Games , and Olympic track and field gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee were introduced Wednesday as honorary team captains for the inaugural Aurora Games, which will be staged over six days in August in Albany, New York. Joyner-Kersee will lead athletes from North and South America and Comaneci will captain Team World. Athletes from more than 15 countries are expected to participate.
“This is a great idea because it hasn’t been done,” Joyner-Kersee, 56, said. “On the other hand, the challenge of it would be to get enough support and why it’s important. I think now is the time. It’s one thing to have an idea. It’s another to bring that idea to reality.”
The festival is the brainchild of longtime sports agent Jerry Solomon, who is married to former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. He said the idea came to him while watching the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“There were more women than men on the U.S. Olympic team for the first time ever and I thought they were doing better,” Solomon said. “I just felt that it was time to take women’s sports out from under the shadow of the men, which is what happens when they participate with the men, and to create an event that was all about celebrating the power and elegance and entertainment value and sheer strength of women’s sports — separate and apart from everything else, that it can stand on its own, it should stand on its own, deserves its own platform.”
The festival will feature competition in gymnastics, basketball, ice hockey, figure skating, tennis and beach volleyball. Solomon said the games will be televised live for three hours a day in 60 countries but did not elaborate. Athletes who will participate will be announced at a later date, he said, adding that some were competing in tennis at the Australian Open.
Solomon said he wanted to name the games after either a Greek or Roman goddess and chose the Roman goddess of the dawn.
“The dawn is when all is possible, and that’s what we’re saying here,” he said. “All is possible for all of these athletes and for women in general around the world.”
The winning team of the six days of competition will receive a trophy named in honor of Babe Didrikson Zaharias, a six-time Associated Press Athlete of the Year and recognized as one of the greatest female athletes of all time.
“It’s an honor for me to be a captain … and for us to be in the position that we’re in and to be able to recognize a woman that has done so much for sports in general, to be able to present that trophy on behalf of her family, as well as her foundation,” Joyner-Kersee said.
Tickets for the Aurora Games will go on sale March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day.