Philip Barker

Next Monday, the Baton containing the Queen’s message to the athletes of the Commonwealth is set to arrive back in England.

It is currently travelling through Wales where the route has taken it down the West Coast, a similar route to the first Baton Relay in 1958 for the Games in Cardiff.

When it arrives in Cornwall, it would have travelled for 269 days and around 146,000 kilometres.

Denise Lewis, Olympic and double Commonwealth Games heptathlon gold medallist, is expected to greet it as it begins its journey from the Eden Project in St Austell.

"I’m going to meet the Baton next Monday down in Cornwall, what a journey that is going to be," Lewis, who is now Commonwealth Games England President, told insidethegames.

"These are moments you just can’t put a price on, they fill me with pride."

The Relay began back in October at Buckingham Palace when Para athlete Kadeena Cox received the Baton from the Queen to set the journey in motion.

"The Relay will be as normal as we can make it," Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Louise Martin had promised.

"For me, the Baton symbolises hope, solidarity and collaboration across the Commonwealth, at a time when it is most needed," Martin wrote in a special insidethegames column.

Later in her Christmas Day broadcast to the Commonwealth, the Queen spoke of her own anticipation.

"The Baton is currently travelling the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, heading towards Birmingham, a beacon of hope on its journey," the Queen said.

As a precaution against COVID-19, there was no international caravan accompanying the Relay on its international journey.

Instead, each nation organised the event within its borders and in spite of all the obstacles, most of it did go ahead as originally planned.

There was ancient history and mythology on the very first leg in Cyprus, where swimmer Nikolas Antoniou carried it to Petra tou Romiou, a rock formation reputed to be  the birthplace of Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty.

In a complete contrast, the Baton also made a descent by parachute and travelled by jet ski.

The Queen had a first look at the Baton which will carry her message last October ©Getty Images
The Queen had a first look at the Baton which will carry her message last October ©Getty Images

In Malta, members of the Olympic team were joined in the Relay by Jake Vella, a swimmer who suffers from a rare condition which causes obesity.

At around the same time that the Baton touched down in the Nigerian capital Abuja to begin the journey across the African continent, the Olympic Flame for Beijing 2022 was lit in Ancient Olympia.

The Chinese authorities took a very different approach and held most of a very truncated Torch Relay away from public view as part of their precautions against COVID-19.

Such an option would not have been viable for the Queen’s Baton Relay, which is regarded as an important part in promoting the Games.

Although masks were essential kit, at least in the early stages, organisers made sure that the Baton remained visible.

"It will ignite hope, solidarity and collaboration for the next generation, with stories inspired to take on the challenges that matter most to us," Nigerian Sports Minister Sunday Dare said.

In Gambia, spectators were "masked up" as Rohey Malick Lowe, the first female Mayor of Banjul, was among those to carry the Baton.

This was appropriate, for Baton designer Laura Nyahuye had insisted its look had been inspired by women, including the Queen.

In Ghana, there was a sprinkling of stardust from boxer Jessie Lartey, who won bronze at the 2018 Gold Coast Games and football star Asamoah Gyan, a member of the legendary "Black Stars" team that reached the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals.

In Kenya, taekwondo fighter Faith Ogallo had a strong environmental message, a major theme of this Relay.

"We as champions have to champion for the environment, the champions are green champions," Ogallo told Kenyan television.

"Being green means responsibility, once we are responsible, we will be able to fight climate change and by that, we will serve the future generation."

John Ngugi, 1988 Olympic 5000 metres gold medallist, led a group hill run joined by 2018 Commonwealth Games 5000m champion Hellen Obiri. 

When the Baton reached Uganda, Easy the Chimpanzee held the Baton briefly at the Ngamba Island Sanctuary.

Later in St Helena, it was also taken to see Jonathan, a 189-year-old giant tortoise believed to be the oldest living land creature in the world. 

There was a poignant moment in Rwanda when Relay participants visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre to remember the 1994 massacre.

It also headed for the  Gahanga Cricket Stadium, an initiative set up in the wake of the atrocities.

The arrival in South Africa was a bittersweet moment, because Durban had originally been awarded the Games. 

By 2017, the organisers had been forced to hand them back.

When the Baton moved on to Asia, 2010 host city Delhi was part of the route although COVID-19 precautions forced some re-scheduling.

Wrestler Ravi Dahiya, a silver medallist in Tokyo, was the first to carry the Baton in Delhi.

Schoolgirl Vinisha Umashankar, from Tamil Nadu, had been nominated by the University of Birmingham, a sponsor of the Relay, as a "Changemaker" for her environmental campaigns and invention of a solar-powered ironing cart.

When the Relay visited Pakistan, squash player Jahanghir Khan, regarded by many as the greatest ever, was amongst the Bearers.

Although he won six world titles, his heyday came before squash was admitted to the Commonwealth Games.

Kuala Lumpur, the 1998 hosts, launched its "Sports Education Month" as the Relay came through its streets.

It was also carried into the air in spectacular fashion by paramotors above Port Klang.

In the Maldives, school pupils and other members of the Dhidhdhoo community celebrated the arrival of the Baton on New Year’s day by staging a clean up of the beaches. 

In New Zealand, it was greeted by a sunrise welcoming ceremony known as a Pōwhiri.

Team chef de mission Nigel Avery, a double weightlifting gold medallist 20 years ago in Manchester, was one of those who carried the Baton.

When it reached Australia, Olympic, world, and double Commonwealth 100 metres hurdles champion Sally Pearson, the final Baton Bearer in 2018, carried the 2022 model on the Gold Coast beaches.

In Sydney, it was taken past the Sydney Opera House, which did not exist when Australia first hosted the Games in 1938.

Legendary swimmers Dawn Fraser and Ian Thorpe were both Baton Bearers in Sydney.

It was also taken to an Australian rules match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Victoria.

It is set to spend rather longer there in 2026, when the region stages the next Games.

Only one city in the Caribbean has so far played host.

That was in 1966, when Don Quarrie was still an aspiring teenage sprinter when Kingston, Jamaica was the setting for the Games.

Over the next decade, he wrote his name into sporting history with Olympic 200m gold and six Commonwealth gold medals spanning the Games from 1970 to 1978.

He was the only logical choice to carry the Baton when it reached Don Quarrie High School.

In Canada, the Baton went right back to the very origins of the Games in 1930.

The Tim Horton stadium stands on the very ground where the first Empire Games were held in August 1930.

The Baton was paraded before a Canadian Football match and apparently inspired the home Hamilton Tiger-Cats team to victory.

There was no sign of the monster as Glasgow 2014 mascot Clyde carried the Baton across Loch Ness ©Getty Images
There was no sign of the monster as Glasgow 2014 mascot Clyde carried the Baton across Loch Ness ©Getty Images

It was in 1982 that rifle shooter Gerald Cheek, one of two from the sport, represented the Falklands Islands at their first Games in Brisbane.

"There were two of us that year and now there’s sixteen," Cheek reflected.

The visit also marked the 40th anniversary of the end of the Falklands War with Argentina.

It was a time to remember those who died in the conflict, with over 900 of them and war veterans taking the Baton to the Memorial Wood for a moment of reflection.

When the Baton reached its homeward journey, it was time to welcome old friends.

The Isle of Man's first competitor, John Osborne, who boxed at light middleweight in the 1958 Cardiff Games, handed the Baton to Jade Burden, who is set to be the woman boxer from the Isle of Man to compete in Birmingham.

In Scotland, Clyde in his new guise as Mascot for Scotland, took the Baton across Loch Ness, though no sightings of Nessie were recorded.

The Baton was not impeded by dragons when it visited the studios where the fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" was filmed, but also travelled to the Giants Causeway on the Northern Irish coast.

The West Midlands Police are set to escort Baton Bearers over almost four weeks before the Relay reaches the Opening Ceremony on July 28.

All the Baton Bearers have received colourful invitation cards confirming their participation.

They should perhaps remember a cautionary tale from the first Relay in 1958.

Runners Tony Redrup and John Seymour from the nearby Wycombe Phoenix club had both been asked to carry the Baton on the first night of its journey, but failed to turn up after misreading the instructions.

"It was a shocking mix up, I’d somehow got the wrong date from correspondence and it was not until I read the papers on Tuesday that I realised my mistake," Seymour said.