By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The rich elm wood has been touched by the likes of kings, princesses, governors-generals, heads of states, world-class athletes. But it also has felt the caresses of ordinary people, and children as it binds the members of the Commonwealth together in a symbolic sense of unity for the common good.
It’s that celebration of sport, diversity and peace that the 1.6-kg Queen’s Baton has come to personify during its 190,000 km journey around 71 nations and territories, including where the games began – Hamilton in honor of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow, Scotland.
“There is a lovely connection between Glasgow and Hamilton,” said Shona Robinson, a member of the Scottish Parliament, and the cabinet secretary for the Commonwealth Games and Sport. “There have been so many hands that have touched the baton.”
The Queen’s Baton, crafted from the Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland by historical techniques, arrived in Hamilton May 2 to a hero’s welcome in honour of the city that hosted the first Empire Games in 1930, which eventually became the Commonwealth Games and Glasgow, which is hosting the 2014 games in July.
The baton, which also included a ‘gemstone’ made of water-resistant granite unique to Scotland from the Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde that has been given to each country the baton has travelled to, also provided the focal point of a welcoming ceremony at Scott Park Arena, across the street from where old Civic Stadium stood hosting the 1930 games, and beside Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool where the aquatic events took place.
The baton was clutched and raised by eight Commonwealth athletes representing each decade of the games’ existence, from Vi Smith, who as a little girl watched the 1930 Empire Games in Hamilton, and then four years later participated in the games in London, England, to Maegan Chant, a gymnast, who will be participating in the 2014 games. There were no games held in the 1940s.
During its 288-day trek, the baton, which will be travelling to Cyprus, Malta, Wales and Ireland before arriving in Glasgow in July, will have been seen by about 2 billion people, said Dr. Andrew Pipe, president, Commonwealth Games Canada, about 30 per cent of the world’s population.
It has gone almost everywhere, said Pipe, and how fitting it is holding the baton ceremony in a hockey rink a “temple of Canadian sporting activity.”
The baton was also serenaded by the Hamilton Children’s Choir, and cheered by children from St. Ann Catholic Elementary School and Prince of Wales Elementary School, the same facility that housed athletes for the 1930 games.
Also accompanying the baton were members of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, and the Hamilton Police Service.
Once the baton reaches Glasgow, the Queen will read a message that is inscribed on a parchment handmade in Scotland using linen and plant fibre.
The morning ceremony was commemorated with a plaque, also unveiled during the event, showcasing Hamilton’s historical prestige of being the birthplace of the Commonwealth Games.
“It was a proud moment in the city’s history,” said Mayor Bob Bratina.
There was a “kind of excitement” on the site over 80 years ago similar to what Hamiltonians are feeling now about hosting the soccer events for the 2015 Pan Am Games in the new Tim Hortons Field built on the same property that Civic Stadium stood, when it welcomed the athletic world to the community, said Bratina.