Vincentian flag flies high at Penn Relays

Vincentian flag flies high at Penn Relays
Photo by Nelson A. King

When the 125th running of the illustrious Penn Relays Carnival at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia got underway last week, there was a new flag among the few at the Franklin Field Stadium.

The Vincentian national flag flew high, for the very first time, among that of the United States and Jamaica, among others, over the huge, newly-refurbished stadium that seats 52,593.

The Franklin Field stadium is located, at the eastern edge of Penn’s campus, across the Schuylkill River from Center City in Philadelphia.

The flying of the Vincentian flag during the three-day games, which began on Thursday, April 23 was made possible through one man, James Cordice, the pioneer and spearhead of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the oldest and largest collegiate athletic meet in the US.

“I feel great to see the flag hovers over the stadium,” the Philadelphia-based Cordice told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview after the two Vincentian schools — The Thomas Saunders Secondary School (TSSS) and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Grammar School – competed in the Relays Carnival over the weekend.

“It brings so much joy for me to look up and see the Vincy flag at Penn,” he added, disclosing that he had to convince University of Pennsylvania officials of the importance of flying the Vincentian flag at the stadium.

“During the application process, the flag had to be 6’x10’ and specifically-made,” Cordice continued. “So, I looked around and found a company in Ohio that wanted to make the flag to the specifications.”

Cordice said he always wanted to see the Vincentian flag flown during the Penn Relays ever since he first attended the games in 1991.

He said his desire intensified after Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) – the Queens-based organization that provides meals and transportation services, among other things, to Caribbean athletes at the Penn Relays – was instrumental in having the Jamaican flag hoisted at the games 25 years ago. Cordice is also an official with TJB.

“I know we’re not garnering the respect in track and field as Jamaica; but, every time I saw the Jamaican flag at the Penn Relays, it made me extremely proud to see a Caribbean flag, and I always wanted it for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said. “I just want to thank the University of Pennsylvania. It’s just the most wonderful thing (to have the Vincentian flag hoisted at the prestigious event).

In 2010, Cordice was among officers in the Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP) to convince city officials to fly the Vincentian on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the first time. Cordice is a former SVGOP president.

Besides being the home of the Penn Relays, the Franklin Field Stadium is the University of Pennsylvania’s stadium for football, track and field, lacrosse and formerly for soccer, field hockey and baseball.

It is also used by Penn students for recreation, and for intramural and club sports, including touch football and cricket, and is the site of Penn’s graduation exercises, according to the University of Pennsylvania in a statement.

It said the story of Franklin Field began on April 20, 1895, when the stadium opened with the first running of the Penn Relay Carnival. Around 5,000 people attended the affair, the largest crowd to witness a track meet in Philadelphia at the time.

Over the three days of Penn Relays 2019, officials said attendance was 110,661, with 48,195 seated on Saturday, April 27 the grand finale.

This year, TSSS participated in the Penn Relays for the 9th consecutive year; the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Grammar School competed for the third successive year.