The Queen’s Baton Relay, which can be equated to the Olympic Torch Relay, is a long-standing tradition of the Commonwealth Games. It’s a world tour that is held in the form of a relay, and it symbolizes the coming together of all Commonwealth nations in preparation for this quadrennial festival of sport and culture. Once every four years, the Commonwealth nations and territories have the chance to put aside their differences and strive for common goals; to be the best in sport, and to unite nations in hopes of preserving humanity and improving mankind. On January 28th, Namibia welcomed the Queen’s Baton Relay as the 33rd country on the 2014 Commonwealth Games tour.
I arrived in Namibia in the midst of Queen’s Baton Relay preparations so I tried to jump right in. I wrote a few speeches and before I knew it, the Relay was upon us. Hosting the Queen’s Baton Relay is quite an adventure for each Commonwealth country as they strive to make the experience unique while their nation is on display for the world to see.
The day the Baton arrived, we hosted an invitation-only welcome dinner for athletes, ministry and government officials, and people related to sport. There were cultural performances and a buffet dinner as well. Of course it rained – summer is rainy season – so by the time I arrived, I was absoloutely dripping.
We were able to secure use of a helicopter, so when we kicked off the Relay at Pionerspark Primary School the next morning, the Baton arrived via helicopter and it was lowered to the ground by rope!
One of our Olympic marathon runners raised the Baton and all the school children had a chance to touch the Baton before the Relay officially began. It wound through the city, covering a distance of just over 19km and everyone from paralympic athletes to equestrian riders to the High Commissioner of London had a chance with the Baton – even me!
Luckily, I was perched in our new Mercedes Olympic van, so I jumped out quite a bit and got some exercise 🙂 We made stops at the High Commissioner of London’s house, the Mayor’s house, and Parliament. At each stop I learnt a bit more about Namibian culture, so this event meant much more to me than just hosting the Baton. I heard about Namibian history, watched different tribes perform (Namibia is home to 7 tribes), and met heaps of people along the way.
That evening, once all the festivities had concluded, we had a dinner just for the organizers and the Glasgow delegation. Here, the granite stone was taken out of the Baton and presented to the NOC President to symbolize an open invitation to Scotland, and to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
This was the first Namibian event I attended as part of their National Olympic Committee and I’m looking forward to many more!