The Queen’s Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games, having been the curtain-raiser to every games since Cardiff, Wales, in 1958. The relay symbolises the gathering of people from across the Commonwealth at the four-yearly festival of sport and culture.
The relay traditionally begins with a commencement ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, which coincides with the city’s Commonwealth Day festivities. There Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II entrusts the baton containing Her ‘message to the athletes’ to the first honorary relay runner.
The relay concludes at the Opening Ceremony, as the final relay runner hands the baton back to Her Majesty, or Her representative, and the message is read aloud. At that moment the relay ends and the Games begin.
Over the years, the Queen’s Baton Relay has evolved into a powerful symbol of the unity and diversity of the Commonwealth of Nations. With each Games, the tradition grows in scale and significance – including more nations, involving more participants and generating more excitement than ever before.
The Kuala Lumpur 1998 Queen’s Baton Relay was the first to deliver the relay to other nations of the Commonwealth, besides England and the host country. The Manchester 2002 Queen’s Jubilee Baton travelled more than 100,000 kilometres in 87 days, and visited 23 Commonwealth nations.
The Melbourne 2006 Queen’s Baton travelled an epic journey of more than 180,000 kilometres in a year and a day, and visited all 71 nations of the Commonwealth – home to almost one third of the world’s population.
The Melbourne 2006 Queen’s Baton Relay was the world’s longest, most inclusive relay. No other Games relay has visited all member nations.
More than 60 per cent of Commonwealth nations hosted their first Queen’s Baton Relay, including the tiny island nations of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa and Niue in the South Pacific.
Hundreds of welcome ceremonies and other community festivities were held along the relay route, enabling many millions of people across the globe to join in the celebrations for the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.