The Queen has set in motion a global relay of the Commonwealth Games baton in her first major event at Buckingham Palace since the Covid pandemic began.
The baton’s 90,000-mile, 269-day journey travels through 72 Commonwealth nations and territories ahead of the Games in 2022.
The competition, hosted by Birmingham, coincides with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year.
The baton will be handed back to the Queen at the city’s opening ceremony.
After the events in London, it emerged the Birmingham Games had received almost 2m applications for tickets.
Organisers say they are well on the way to having capacity crowds at all venues.
The Queen began the relay on Thursday by passing the baton to Paralympic gold medallist Kadeena Cox who carried it on the first leg of its journey.
The baton received by four-time Paralympic chamption Cox is meant to represent the spirit of the “friendly games”, and contains a message from the Queen to athletes and the Commonwealth.
It is due to arrive in Cyprus in a few days.
Among guests at Buckingham Palace were Baroness Scotland, secretary-general of the Commonwealth; Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer; and sports minister Nigel Huddleston. They were joined by representatives from the Commonwealth Games Federation, of which the Queen is patron, along with grassroots sports organisations from the West Midlands and athletes who are set to compete next summer.
The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, joined the Queen in his role as vice patron of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The baton was carried around the palace by athletes from the home nations. It arrived with a group of “hometown heroes” from Birmingham, including blind marathon runner Dave Heeley, who was appointed an OBE in the 2020 Birthday Honours after raising millions of pounds for charity.
Birmingham Poet Laureate Casey Bailey performed verse about the Games ahead of the relay.
He said: “I think just the spotlight on Birmingham is really important at this moment.
“Birmingham is really good at playing itself down and the whole region is very good at saying ‘no, no, no, not us, don’t look at us’, but actually it’s an amazing region.”
The Games will take place in Birmingham and across the West Midlands from 28 July to 8 August 2022.
Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid said: “We had in excess of 850,000 ticket applications for the West Midlands ballot alone and I think we are nearly at 2m applications in total following the national ballot.
“So that gives you a sense of the number of people now that want to engage with the Games.
“We’re tracking around 10% ahead, post-ballot, of ticket sales of both the Gold Coast and Glasgow. Of course, Glasgow sold 96% of tickets in total by the end of that journey, following general sales. So that bodes incredibly well.”
The baton will leave the country later from Birmingham Airport and is due in Cyprus on 9 October, and Malta on 12 October.
It will then be flown to Africa, visiting all 19 Commonwealth countries there, before heading to Pakistan and then Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Australia, the Caribbean and Canada, followed by the Falkland Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
It will then spend five days in Scotland, four in Northern Ireland, and five in Wales, followed by 25 in England.
A strand of platinum has been incorporated into the baton in recognition of the Queen’s 70-year reign to be celebrated next year, and it is packed with gadgets, including a 360-degree camera.
Credit: BBC Sport