Relay brings Games step closer
The Queen's Baton Relay for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games will get underway at a ceremony in London this week.
The baton will travel to all the nations and territories of the Commonwealth during its journey of around 248 days, including India, Singapore, St Lucia and Canada.
The Queen will help set it on its way at the public launch ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
She will place her message to the athletes inside the specially-designed baton.
The message will not be read until the opening ceremony in July.
This week's ceremony in London will also be attended by two of Scotland's greatest Commonwealth and Olympic athletes, Allan Wells and Sir Chris Hoy.
Sprint legend Wells, winner of two Commonwealth Golds and the 100m Olympic sprint title at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, will be the first athlete to receive the baton from the Queen and start it on its journey.
He said: "As the final runner of the Queen's Baton Relay (QBR) at the last Commonwealth Games on Scottish soil in Edinburgh in 1986, the baton and what it symbolises is incredibly special for me.
"It is a real honour for me to now be named as the first batonbearer for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games."
Hoy, a six-time Gold Olympian and double Commonwealth Gold medallist, will escort the baton as it makes the processional journey down the Mall, accompanied by pipers, to the ceremony itself.
The baton was due to travel to 71 nations and territories in total, but part of the route will now have to be redrawn following The Gambia's decision not to participate in the Games.
The move comes days after the west African nation announced its departure from the Commonwealth, saying it will "never be a member of any neo-colonial institution".
The country's withdrawal reduces the number of nations and territories competing at the Games to 70.
One of the first stops for the Glasgow 2014 baton will be Delhi, which hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
It will go on to visit every nation and territory of the Commonwealth, travelling through Asia, Oceania, Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe.
It will later travel the length and breadth of Scotland on the way to its final destination, the opening ceremony on July 23, 2014.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The start of the Queen's Baton Relay, with two of Scotland's greatest-ever athletes, is another step towards what will be a momentous year for Scotland.
"2014 promises the greatest-ever Games and the relay will provide a fantastic celebration of sport and culture across the Commonwealth, with Glasgow and Scotland at its heart."
The relay, a Games tradition which shares similarities with the Olympic torch relay, is designed to unite the two billion citizens of the Commonwealth in a celebration of sport, diversity and peace.
The baton - made out of titanium, wood and granite - is expected to cover about 123,000 miles (198,000km) and will be the first baton ever to visit Rwanda.
It will spend an average of one to four days in each nation, with an extended duration of seven days in Wales, two weeks in England and 40 days in Scotland.
Glasgow 2014 chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin said: "The Queen's Baton Relay is a great tradition of the Commonwealth Games and a wonderful opportunity for Glasgow and Scotland to share our culture and heritage with the citizens of the Commonwealth.
"The launch event at Buckingham Palace marks a real milestone moment for Glasgow 2014 as the QBR builds momentum towards Glasgow and Scotland's moment on the global stage."
Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said the relay was a reminder of the worldwide scale of the Games.
"The Queen's Baton Relay will visit countries representing almost a third of the global population, forming a countdown to the Games coming to Glasgow in 2014," he said.
"Its journey will put Glasgow on the world stage and further build the excitement over the next 10 months before we welcome the biggest sporting event that has ever taken place in the city."
This week's baton ceremony, to be attended by Commonwealth and Games dignitaries, will be broadcast live on BBC One.