Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is to launch a baton relay — one of the longest in history — in the presence of President Pratibha Patil to lift the curtain on the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, organisers said on Tuesday.
The Queen’s Baton Relay, a traditional event that has launched every Commonwealth Game since 1958, will be held on October 29 at Buckingham Palace in London.
Apart from the visiting Indian President, other dignitaries expected to attend the ceremony include Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip, Commonwealth Games Federation President Michael Fennell and the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Delhi Games, Suresh Kalmadi.
Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra will be the first athlete to run with the baton, a high-tech stick that will contain a digital camera, a GPS and a Queen’s message to athletes engraved on a gold leaf.
The baton will be carried to the Queen Victoria Memorial and The Mall in central London, followed by a colourful parade of performers, before making its way to Trafalgar Square, where a grand finale will showcase Indian culture.
The baton will then traverse the length and breadth of the Commonwealth for 240 days, visiting all of the other 70 nations and territories, before entering India for a 100-day national tour.
By the end of this epic journey, it will have travelled for 340 days and covered more than 190,000 km, passing through the hands of thousands of individuals across land, air, sea and on many different modes of transport — from bicycle and boat to hot air balloon, steam train and even an elephant.
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 on 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 on October 3, where athletes will be read out the Queen’s message, engraved on a miniature 18-carat gold leaf representing the ancient Indian patra.