The Queen’s Baton found its way into the hands of Cayman residents this weekend, when it made the rounds of several of the most scenic points of interest on Grand Cayman.
The baton, which landed at Owen Roberts International Airport with its handlers on Friday, made a tour of Government House, the Cayman Turtle Centre, the South Sound Squash Club, East End and North Side, among other locations, and passed through the hands of dozens of people at Pedro St. James on Saturday.
That is all part of the 388-day journey for the Commonwealth Games symbol, which started its way around the world on March 13 at Buckingham Palace in London, and will culminate in a trip to the opening ceremonies of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia on April 4, 2018. The baton will visit Little Cayman and Cayman Brac on Monday before pressing on with the rest of its journey.
“The Queen’s Baton relay heralds the start of the games in the Commonwealth next year, and it travels through every nation and territory of the Commonwealth,” said Keri Algar, who works in public relations and media operations for the Queen’s Baton Relay. “One of the things that really stands out in the Commonwealth is the diversity of cultures that we have. The Queen’s Baton is an opportunity to connect all those different cultures around the world with this one unifying Baton.”
The baton, which weighs just 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms), is partly made of macadamia wood to honor the indigenous people of the Yugambeh language group in Australia, the host of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and also of reclaimed plastic collected from the ocean to symbolize the sustainability of the future.
Commonwealth nations have more than 2.4 billion people populating them, and approximately 50 percent of those people are aged 25 and younger. The baton visited Africa before reaching the Caribbean, and it will be touched by thousands of people in countries large and small. It visited Salt Cay in Turks and Caicos, population 75, last week, and will wind through heavily populated India in October before spending 100 days making the rounds of Australia as a prelude to the opening ceremonies.
“That’s the nice thing about the Queen’s Baton Relay,” said Ms. Alger. “Because there’s such a long relay, you’re able to include as many people as possible and visit as many different places as possible so that people who don’t usually have access to these things are able to have this memorable moment.
“We go to schools in Africa where there are thousands of children. We work out a way for every single one to be able to touch the baton, if not carry it. In Turks and Caicos, there are a lot of people involved in carrying and relaying the baton, and here in the Cayman Islands we’ve been able to visit a lot of places that showcase the natural beauty of the islands. All of the people get to take photos with the baton, learn about its history and where it’s going next. There are so many American tourists here, who aren’t part of the Commonwealth, but they’ve been as interested and as curious as anyone else.”
The baton contains a message written by Queen Elizabeth II that will be taken out and read to all the people of the Commonwealth right before the start of the games.
The crowd at Pedro St. James, which included some members of the Cayman Islands National Swim Team, got a chance to learn about the baton and have a few relaxed moments with it Saturday, and many were excited for a chance to touch the item that started in Queen Elizabeth’s hands.
“I can’t believe how we touched and held and had a photo with the baton. It was amazing,” said Ethel Dela Cruz, who has been in Cayman for 11 years and plans on going to Australia for the games. “We’re so excited. We have tickets already. It’s my first time to see the Commonwealth Games.”
Sarah Jackson, one of the members of the Cayman Islands swim team who will be competing this week in the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas, said she hopes to compete in next year’s Commonwealth Games. But for now, just being up close and personal with the Queen’s Baton was a thrill for her.
“I’ve seen photos of it around other places in the Commonwealth. It was pretty cool,” said Ms. Jackson, who was part of the Cayman youth team that won a record 47 medals at the CARIFTA Games in April. “I saw it when they left England and I saw it in Turks and Caicos right before it came here.”