By Derrick Scott
Caribbean News Now contributor
PHILADELPHIA, USA -- Jamaica’s national flag will officially fly at Penn Relays every year beginning in 2013, in perpetuity, in recognition of the Caribbean nation’s 50th anniversary of independence and the contribution made to the Penn Relays over the last 40 years by its athletes.
Director of the Penn Relays, David Johnson, made the disclosure at a special ceremony held on the final day of the 118th annual edition of the relay festival at the Franklin Field, University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 28.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who was present at the 2012 Penn Relays Carnival in her capacity as minister of sports, presented the president of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr Amy Gutmann, with a Jamaican flag to be flown at future Penn Relays.
Johnson told the more than 49,000 spectators on hand for Saturday’s closing day that Jamaica would be the only country to be so honoured because of the outstanding contribution made to the games by its athletes, in addition to the tremendous presence and support given to the games by Jamaicans from all over the United States. This announcement was received with a thunderous applause and standing ovation from spectators.
In presenting the flag, the prime minister said her country was honoured to be chosen by the organisers as the only country to have its flag flown at the Penn Relay Games. She welcomed and acknowledged the gesture as “a great tribute to the country, our athletes and Jamaicans the world over.”
Simpson Miller saluted the Penn Relays organizers who, she said, have given our athletes the opportunity to compete and excel in track and field.
She pointed out that many of our premier, world-class athletes who have excelled in track and field were first exposed to international competition at Penn Relays. “Our athletes who have been participating at these games for the last forty years continue to do so at a very high level of competition.”
Simpson Miller praised Jamaica’s athletes and coaches, who she hailed as “true ambassadors of Jamaica.”
In presenting a citation, a commemorative baton and flag to Simpson Miller, Gutmann said the proclamation was being given in celebration of Jamaica’s 50th year of independence as well as to acknowledge the leadership of the prime minister.
Gutmann recognized the visibility and impact that all past, present and future athletes of Jamaica have had on the high caliber of this athletic meet. “Jamaica’s participation in the games has greatly influenced the yearly attendance. This is evidenced today by the great turnout and vast number of black, green and gold colours all throughout the stands.”
In a salute to Jamaica, four athletes made an exhibition lap around the 400m track, carrying the Jamaican flag.