Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) President Dame Louise Martin insists the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be “as normal as we can make it”, but has revealed the organisation is making contingency plans to cope with any changes needed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to be cognisant it might not happen the way we want it to happen,” Dame Louise told insidethegames.
“We are hoping it is going ahead, we are planning for it to go ahead.”
A provisional route has already been planned but Dame Louise said organisers “may have to make alterations to it” but only time will tell.
“It is being monitored,” Dame Louise said.
The Relay is designed to convey a message from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the athletes of the Commonwealth.
It was introduced for the 1958 Games in Cardiff, and since the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games it has visited every one of the 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth on its journey to the opening ceremony.
The baton relay for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games began with champion cyclist Anna Meares OAM receiving the baton from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London, kicking off its remarkable 388-day 230,000 kilometre adventure across the Commonwealth.
Celebrations for the QBR like these for the Gold Coast 2018 Games may need to be altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (CGA Archive)
The Gold Coast Games Queen’s Baton Relay was the longest and the most accessible baton relay in Games history, not just passing through towns on its journey across Australia, but spending quality time in each community it visited.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games baton is expected to visit Australia on its international journey, dates for the launch of the 2022 relay have not yet been finalised, but with the Birmingham Games scheduled to open on July 28 in 2022, it is expected to commence later this year to allow for the completion of the international journey.
The Baton is expected to spend the final 100 days in the host nation before the Games begin.
“We are trying to make sure that we’ve got a route and a safe route and one that will get from A to B in the time that is required to bring it back into the country,” Dame Louise said.
Unlike the Olympic Torch Relay in which the Flame is passed by individual torches held by each bearer, a single Baton is passed from hand to hand in the Queen’s Baton Relay.
Dame Louise said that in previous years “we wanted as many hands as possible to touch it so that the Queen knows that in her family throughout the Commonwealth, as many people have the chance to touch it and see her message.”
The opposite will now be required.
The past year has seen the Queen wear gloves at investitures as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19.
Changing conditions and quarantine regulations have made planning the QBR even more complicated.
“We will have to have plan A and plan B,” continued Dame Louise in the interview with insidethegames.
“It will attract crowds and that is something we have to be cognizant off, something that we have to plan.
“Plan A is that it is free, not like normal, but as normal as we can make it.
“Plan B is where we still have restrictions throughout it.
“What that is going to look like I have no idea.
“None of us have at this moment.
“We are just going to work on it and hope for the best.
“I am quite sure there will still be restrictions on social distancing by then, but if the vaccine works the way we all hope it is going to work, we will be able to do the journey that is planned for it.”
The relay organising team is said to be in touch daily as the situation changes.
Birmingham 2022 chief creative officer Martin Green said: “We continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic as our plans for the QBR develop.”
Green insisted the Relay “will be an incredible celebration of the entire Commonwealth.”
The CGF Executive Board will have the final say on the exact form that the Relay will take but no decision is expected until much closer to the launch.