Team Jamaica Bickle cancels all events leading up to Penn Relays

Jamaican Irwine Clare.

Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB), the Queens-based philanthropic organization that provides meals, transportation and other services to Jamaican and other Caribbean athletes participating in the prestigious Penn Relays at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said on Friday that it was cancelling all events leading up to this year’s Carnival, which was expected to run from April 23 through 25.

TJB, which is headed by Jamaican Irwine Clare, said in a statement that it was aware of the decision made by the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) to ban participation of Jamaican schools at the 2020 staging of the Annual Penn Relays Carnival.

The organization said it was also aware of the decision made by the GOJ, Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Athletic (ISSA) Championships and sponsor, GraceKennedy, to cancel this year’s staging of the ISSA/GraceKennedy championships in Jamaica.

“We, too, share the concerns about the threat of Covid-19 to our ‘Our Athletes, Our Ambassadors,’ and various communities, and stand in support of the decisions made,” TJB said. “Their health and well-being are Paramount.

“We are equally mindful that the athletes have trained hard to showcase their prowess not only for bragging rights but most importantly to secure scholarships to colleges and universities overseas,” it added. “We understand their disappointment, but are confident that for those athletes’ non-participation in any of these events will not stymie the opportunities in front of them.

“We also wish to advise the Diaspora that as a result, all of our events leading up to the Penn Relays have been cancelled,” TJB continued. “We thank them for their consistent and generous support and look forward to next year being even bigger and better.

TJB said that while the Penn Relays season is over for the organization, its fundraising efforts for the Defibrillator to Schools Program will continue, “as we work to outfit more high schools with these units in 2020.”

Donations may be made at https://www.teamjamaicabickle.org/donate/

For more information, call 718-523-2861.

On Monday, the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania announced that the 2020 Penn Relays has been cancelled “due to the evolving coronavirus public health threat.”

A large number of Caribbean athletes, predominantly Jamaican, compete in the illustrious games annually.

Organizers said Penn “will endeavor to host a substitute track meet at a later date in late May or early June.”

“Based on the current novel coronavirus pandemic, we cannot, in good faith, hold an event in six weeks without putting our participants, spectators, officials, volunteers and staff through undeserved health risks,” said Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W’69 Director of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Pennsylvania, in a statement.

“We remain hopeful that the recent measures put in place by many health organizations, government officials and academic institutions will prevent the spread of this disease, and the world will slowly begin to return to normal,” she added. “A piece of that normality is competition and participation through sports.

“Therefore, in an effort to provide that opportunity, the Penn Relays will look to host a track meet when the health and safety of our community is more certain,” continued Calhoun, stating that the scope of the track meet will not be the standard Penn Relays format.

She said the three-day event will shorten into a one-day event, “designed to provide the opportunity for youth, high school, and open runners to persevere and enjoy a competitive and festive atmosphere, which they might have missed this spring.”

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