The Queen’s Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games, having started at the Games in Cardiff, Wales, in 1958. The Baton is now as much a part of the Commonwealth Games tradition as the torch is part of the Olympics.
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 Games begin.
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. For the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Queen’s Baton traveled 230,000 km in 388 days, the longest in Commonwealth Games history.
For each Games, the host country designs a unique Baton. Here are descriptions of the designs from recent Commonwealth Games.
2022 (Birmingham) The baton for Birmingham was cast in non-precious metals - copper, aluminium and brass - to represent the gold, silver and bronze medals at the Games. There are a few hi-tech features included in the baton, such as a 360-degree camera, heart-rate monitors, atmospheric sensors and LED lighting. The atmospheric sensors will analyse environmental conditions wherever the baton is in the world, promoting awareness of air quality across the Commonwealth. The LED lighting will change each time the baton is exchanged.
2018 (Gold Coast) The 2018 baton had a distinctive loop design. It spent time in every nation and territory of the Commonwealth. The Baton Relay was the longest in Commonwealth Games history, covering 230,000 km in 388 days.
2014 (Glasgow) The Queen's message was held within a titanium lattice framework and was internally illuminated. At the top of the baton was a puzzle mechanism that dispensed granite gemstones to each of the Commonwealth nations and territories that the baton visited, inviting them to join Glasgow at the Games.
2010 (Delhi, India) The Queen's Baton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games was a delicate mix of aesthetics and technology with an in-built location tracking system and a camera capable of sending images to the Games website. When it reached New Delhi for the October 3 opening ceremony, it had travelled over 190,000 kilometres in 340 days.
2006 (Melbourne) The Queen's Baton design for 2006 was an elegant, curved form, with 71 lights on the front indicating the 71 nations of the Commonwealth. The lights progressively lit up as the baton arrived in each Commonwealth country. The baton was carried on a 366-day 180,000 km journey, visiting every nation in the Commonwealth. The baton has traditionally contained the message from the Queen to the athletes. For the 2006 Games in Melbourne, the 'Queen's message' was actually stored on a memory chip attached to the baton.
2002 (Manchester, England) The baton had special significance as it marks the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen and was designed to symbolize the uniqueness of the individual and the common rhythm of humanity.
1998 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) The Baton design was inspired by a traditional Malay artefact, the 'Gobek', which is a unique cylindrical areca nut-pounder widely used and displayed in Malay homes. Malaysia placed their own flavour on the Games, with the Queens Baton being carried into the stadium on an elephant. The baton was presented to Prince Edward by Malaysias first-ever Commonwealth medal winner Koh Eng Tong, a bronze medalist in weight lifting in 1954.
1994 (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), The Baton was fashioned from sterling silver and was engraved with traditional symbols of the creative artists' families and cultures, including a wolf, a raven and an eagle with a frog in its mouth.