Thursday, 29 October 2009

Queen's Baton begins its epic journey

The relay, which has been the curtain raiser to every Commonwealth Games since 1958, began when the Queen Elizabeth II entrusted the baton containing her message to the President of India.

The baton will appear at various high-profile sporting events and pass through all of the Commonwealth nations before arriving in Delhi in a journey that will cover 190,000 kilometers in 336 days.

Dame Kelly Holmes, Commonwealth Games England President, said: "Excitement is now building towards the Games in Delhi next year and the Queen's Baton Relay is one of the longest standing traditions of the Commonwealth Games.

"The Baton's journey symbolize the unity and shared ideals of the Commonwealth Nations.

The baton, packed with high-tech cameras, sound-recorders and LED lights all made in India, contains a message to the athletes from the queen that will be opened and read out at the launch of the Games in New Delhi Oct 3.

The baton will traverse the length and breadth of the Commonwealth for 240 days before arriving in India, where it will launch into a 100-day national tour, going through all the states and union territories.

After a colorful performance of Indian music and dance on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace Thursday, the baton was passed in turn from the Queen to Patil, to Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Games Organizing Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, and finally to the 14 athletes who began the baton relay.

Running with the baton outside the Palace in central London were shooter Abhinav Bindra, former British runner Sebastian Coe, former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev, tennis star Sania Mirza, 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, British runner Kelly Holmes, England cricketer Monty Panesar, boxer Vijender Kumar, squash player Misha Soni, wrestler Sushil Kumar, British wheelchair table tennis player Susan Gilroy, weighlifter Karnam Malleshwari, hockey star Dilip Tirkey and decathlete Gurbachan Singh Randhawa.

They were cheered by hundreds of people who lined the gates of Buckingham Palace.

The baton was carried to the Queen Victoria Memorial and The Mall in central London, before making its way to Trafalgar Square.

The baton's journey will take in some of the most remote places in the Commonwealth, including the British-administered territory of St. Helena - accessible only by boat - and the Falkland Islands.

It will enter India from the Attari border with Pakistan June 25 before starting on a journey of 28 States and seven union territories, covering a distance of over 20,000 km.

The relay will end at the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium Oct 3, where athletes will be read out the Queen's message, engraved on a miniature 18-carat gold leaf representing the ancient Indian 'patra' - currently locked in a jewelery box inside the baton.


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