Monday, March 13, 2006

Vlastik Skvaril carries Queen's Baton

While this year relay is receiving a lot of publicity I suspect that most people would know only the fact that is going around Australia to deliver the Queen’s message to the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

I feel very honoured to be selected as one of the 3,500 runners to carry the Baton. Also very lucky especially since there were some 50,000 nominations received by the committee. I was allocated a section of the run in Penguin’s Main Street – a small, pictures town in Tasmania near Burnie. It was a very special occasion for me. My whole family including six grandchildren came to watch it to emphasize the significance of that moment. Meeting with the officials and other runners prior to the run again reinforced the feeling of being a part of a very special event.

It was amazing to see how many people turned up for the occasion. The excitement started building up as the convoy of cars and Police motorbikes approached with the runner and support crew following and before I knew it was my turn to carry the Baton.
I don’t think that I can find the right words to describe the feeling of being a part in this history making event.
The first time Her Majesty’s ‘message to the athletes’ in a purpose- built batton was carried in 1958 to Cardiff, Wales and since then it has become a tradition.

The Melbourne 2006 Queen’s Baton Relay commenced on 14 March 2005. It is the world’s longest, most inclusive relay. In it’s duration of one year and one day it will travel more than 180,000 km through all 71 nations of the Commonwealth. This the world’s first: no games relay has ever visited all member nations.

In Australia it travels 21,500 km in 50 days visiting more than 500 communities in all states and territories.
The baton itself is a technical marvel. Every detail has some special meaning. The shape takes its inspiration from the physical form of athletes arching forward as they strive for success. Seventy one lights on front – one for each nation progressively light up as the baton arrives in each Commonwealth destination. The material – gold and magnesium hold special significance for people of Victoria. The gold reflects the important role the metal played in history and prosperity of Melbourne. Magnesium – the metal of the future. Australia is one of the world’s largest producers with the metal having special significance to Australia’s prosperity and future.

The most important part of the baton is a memory chip with Her Majesty’s message. There are also two tiny cameras and two microphones transmitting images to the games websites. Each runner wears a “thumb glove” which triggers exciting visual effects during baton exchanges.

I will never forget those few minutes I spent being part of this great event. This gave me to opportunity to think again about how lucky I am to be an Australian and a part of this great Commonwealth of nations with the Queen as our head. I am very proud of it.

Vlastik Skvaril
Burnie, 12th March 2006.

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