Queens Baton Farewelled

  • Murray McCully

The Queen's Baton, the Commonwealth Games equivalent of the Olympic torch, will leave New Zealand tomorrow (Tuesday 16 June) on the final stage of its journey which started at Buckingham Palace in March and will end in Malaysia.

The Baton carries the Queen's message to the 16th Commonwealth Games to be staged at Kuala Lumpur in September, and it has already been carried through African, American and Caribbean countries on its way to the Games.

It was formally handed over at a Parliamentary function in Wellington today by Sports Minister Murray McCully to a representative of the Games organisers, SUKOM Ninety Eight Director of Marketing Mohammed Rosly Selamat.

Escorted by a squad of children from the Capital Swim Club, the Baton was carried up the steps of Parliament by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Gary Anderson, who handed it to Mr McCully for its final presentation.

New Zealand's International Olympic Committee representative Tay Wilson told the gathering that the New Zealand organising committee was "excited about the opportunities" presented by the new sports which would be added to the Games, such as rugby sevens, netball, one day cricket, mens and womens hockey.

Mr McCully said the new sports "would foster renewed interest in the Commonwealth Games on the part of New Zealanders".

The tour of the Queens Baton through townships of the Wellington province since its arrival in New Zealand on 11 June was organised by the NZ Olympic Committee and Wellington 2006, the organisation promoting the capital's bid to host the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

During the past five days the Baton has passed through areas which will be associated with the Games if they are awarded to the Wellington province, including Porirua, Kapiti, Wanganui, Masterton, Carterton, Martinborough, Upper Hutt, Hutt city, and Wellington city.