The Penn Relays
April 25-27: The world’s oldest relay meet, held annually at the University of Pennsylvania
April 25-27, 2013
A late April tradition, the annual Penn Relay Carnival is now in its 119th year, making it the world’s first and most widely recognized relay meet.
Each year, this historic rite of spring draws crowds of up to 100,000 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, where spectators know they’ll see some of the world’s top track athletes compete — and begin Olympic careers.
And along with the athletes come the fans, who also hail from all over the country and the world. There is an accompanying festival offering food, crafts and souvenirs along the streets that surround the stadium.
The Penn Relays’ status as America’s largest amateur track meet goes back to the very first running, held in 1895 to stoke flagging student interest in track and field. That event drew 5,000 spectators, the largest audience for a track meet in Philadelphia up to that time.
The Relays have played an important role in Philadelphia’s cultural life from the beginning. It was one of few major events that accepted African American competitors, and it was one of the high points on the African American social calendar.
Tickets are required for admission — check the website for details. Public transportation is recommended; parking is limited.
Penn Relays participants have won gold medals in every modern (summer) Olympic Games except the 1980 Moscow games, which the United States boycotted.