The Jamaica, Queens-based Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) is the leading organization in sports providing support services for Caribbean athletes, particularly Jamaicans, who compete at the prestigious annual Penn Relays Carnival, which is held at the University of Pennsylvania, (UPENN) in Philadelphia, PA.
TJB, a not-for-profit corporation formed in 1994, was later designated a 501(c)(3) organization.
Its founder, Irwine G. Clare, Snr, is the current chief executive officer.
The affiliated TJB-Philadelphia Organizing Committee was simultaneously formed by co-founder Blane Stoddart, who now heads the affiliated Friends of Team Jamaica Bickle, also based in Philadelphia.
TJB said its mission is embodied in the motto: “Our Athletes, Our Ambassadors.”
TJB said it services extend to a delegation of about 650 students and coaches from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Guyana and Grenada.
Over the years, TJB said it has welcomed and extended its services to delegations of students and coaches from the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), Bahamas, Barbados and, most recently, Belize.
Team Jamaica Bickle provides meals and other refreshments; physical therapy, chiropractic, mentorship; medical services; ground transportation; daily hotel to stadium shuttle; airport transfers for arrival and departure; subsidized hotel rate; and subsidized air fare.
In 1999, Team Jamaica Bickle became the first Jamaican organization to be a participating sponsor at the Penn Relays.
As a result, it said the Jamaican flag became the first foreign flag to be flown at the Penn Relays, “a distinction unmatched.”
Over the years, TJB has received numerous proclamations and awards from several local and national entities.
“The Penn Relays platform is important and may be likened to a ‘pilgrimage’ for many Jamaicans,” it said in a statement. “It is the longest uninterrupted collegiate track meet athletic event in the country and is the largest meet (outside of the Olympics) that attracts over 22,000 athletes, primarily from the northeast United States and the Caribbean, namely, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Barbados, St Vincent and The Grenadines, and Grenada.
“Through 124 editions of the meet, more athletes have run at the Penn Relays than at any single meet in the world,” it added. “More spectators have watched the meet than any in the world, except the Olympics and World Championships.”
TJB said Jamaica has competed at the Penn Relays for over 50 years, and, during that time, “our athletes have made significant contributions to the successful staging of the relays.”
“The continued triumph of the Jamaican athletes has brought the fans to record breaking numbers for the past several years,” it said, stating that ESPN estimates that, of the 100,000 to 125,000 persons attending Penn over the three-day period, about 50 percent are Jamaicans/Caribbean nationals.
Others estimate the number is closer to 70 percent, TJB said.
“The Relays present an opportunity to re-unite with friends and families,” it said. “It provides for friendly competition among schools and is especially a grand display of national pride on the international stage.”
The TJB Village is the “HUB‘’ for all TJB activities at the Penn Relays Carnival.
“It is ‘Nerve-Center’, a home-away-from-home,” it said. “The TJB Village is the ‘drop–off and departure point’ for teams daily, where athletes, coaches and volunteers gather each morning for meals and where sponsors, media, friends and well-wishers alike, converge to start the day.
“More strategically, TJB plays an important role of helping to recreate a familiar atmosphere to the Jamaican stadium, where supporters of the athlete’s school gather and organize to represent athletes before the broader audience of sports fans,” it added. “TJB Team is proud to be the provider of meals for the athletes. It forms the center-piece of all TJB’s activities at Penn.
“Athletes and coaches know that maintaining proper nutrition is vital to optimal performance during the meet,” TJB added. “For many of the participants, having to make adjustments to the unfamiliar environments in a top international meet would be even more challenging than any athlete or coach would choose.”
The athletes are served a sumptuous fare each day, consisting largely of Jamaican food they know and love.
Ackee and saltfish, callaloo, jerk chicken, fish, curry goat, banana, Hardough bread and yam are all on the menu.
Roti and other Caribbean foods have been added to the menu in recent years as the “tent becomes more Caribbean”.
The TJB Village is also the social center, the medical outpost and physical therapy center and one of the focal points of contact with the audience for (TJB) corporate sponsors.
“It is where national pride reigns supreme, as fans gather to revel in the exploits of our talented athletes and to cheer on their countrymen,” TJB said. “It is a carnival-like atmosphere where patriotism and love of country towers above all at Franklin Field.
“Over the three-day sports carnival, the atmosphere is dynamic, and the buzz is palpable around the TJB Village,” it added. “The colors of the flags, the music, the energy, the vibe, and the people are all reminders of home.
“The TJB Village is the stage for ‘Awards/End of Relays Send-off,’ where officials, sponsors, visiting government officials, thousands of Jamaicans and well-wishers gather to say ‘thank you’ to the athletes, and to recognize and applaud the entire cadre of staff and volunteers for yet another year of stellar work,” TJB continued.