No More USA vs. The World on Penn Saturdays

The 126th running of the Penn Relays will be held at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, April 28 to 30, and the Philadelphia, USA-based carnival will be different from how it was in 2019, after which the event was suspended because of Covid-19.

There will be no more USA vs. The World, an Olympic-development-segment staple on the last day, to which thousands flocked to see fierce rivalry play out between Olympians from the host country and others, with the US and Jamaica getting most of attention. As the athletes get ready for completion, enthusiastic fans do the Mexican Wave and shout “USA USA …” as the response to JA-MAY-CA.

However, Toyota remains the title sponsor [presenting the Penn Relays].

Over decades, multiple elite athletes have competed at the Relays, affectionately called Penns; among them: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce; USA’s Justin Gatlin and Sanya Richards-Ross; Trinidad’s Richard Thompson and Kelly-Ann Baptiste. Others come from far-flung locales Netherlands, Nigeria, Australia, and China, and Hong Kong.

Noted as the greatest USA vs. the World segment of all-time is the 2010 edition, when Usain Bolt, who first competed at Penn in 2004 as a student at Jamaica’s William Knibb High School, returned to Franklin Field as a three-time gold medalist and the world’s fastest man.

The crowd topped out at a record-breaking 54,000 who filled every nook and cranny of the stadium to get a glimpse of Bolt. And they did so with thunderous ovations when Bolt jogged in the infield to warm up for his 4×100 relay.

This year, Nike will not be on hand as an apparel sponsor and was replaced by On Running, which begs the question whether Nike stars such Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will grace the track.

“We are still having plenty of professional races with a lot of big names, including Olympic medalists such as Ajee Wilson and Allyson Felix,” one Penn Relay personnel said. “We have a lot more names in our pocket right now that we’ll be announcing to the public over the next few weeks as we lead up to the event. Our professional races are labeled Olympic Development now.”

Top college scheduled to compete are Houston, South Carolina, Clemson, and Auburn. “Additional professional athletes and college programs will be announced in the coming weeks,” the personnel said.

Penn Athletics premiered The Carnival: 125 Years of the Penn Relays on Thursday, March 31 at The Palestra. According to a Penn Relays-Toyota press release, the documentary “chronicles the true story of how one event defied the odds for more than a century to become one of the longest running sporting events in history.

“With interviews from some of track and field’s biggest stars including Carl Lewis, The Carnival is a 75-minute journey through the history of the Relays. Penn worked with the Philadelphia-based film company JTwo to produce the documentary, which included filming during the 125th Running of the Relays in 2019.”

The Carnival will also be shown again in The Palestra concurrently with Penns.

See the full schedule for the three days.

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