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President’s Voice ÔÇô Gideon Sam
- Updated: February 8, 2014
The Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay has reached the halfway stage of its journey to 70 countries, passing through Mauritius and what a reception on the island of Rodrigues.
The population of 38000, yes that’s correct, 38000, came to a standstill.
The Chief Commissioner of the island was there in person and set the procession off to traverse the island. Motorcycles of all sizes led the relay runners made up of athletes who have represented Mauritius in national and international events.
I was struck by the festival atmosphere; the blaring music all the way; hundreds of school kids and college students lining the route.
One could not help notice the plethora of small businesses along the route and I had to enquire whether they are viable at all given the small population.
The response was interesting. We have the land, we can fish and we keep a small herd of cattle and we do not desire to live in shacks on the outskirts of Port Louis , the capital of Mauritius. It really makes you think about our own situation here in South Africa.
In Namibia and Botswana, the baton was received by the highest offices in the land. One would have thought that the Commonwealth as an institution has faded after independence from Great Britain but this is certainly not the case.
The Vice-President of the Republic of Botswana spoke glowingly about the Commonwealth and was at pains explaining to the audience the values espoused by the nations that make up the Commonwealth and what role each country is playing to live out those values of peace, unity and diversity.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia was equally full of praise for the Commonwealth and how Namibia’s participation in the Games now and in the past has filled ┬áthem with pride, especially with the performances of Frankie Fredericks, who by the way, still holds the record in the 200m sprint.
For all these countries the scene has been set for Glasgow and they are going ┬áall out to compete and not just participate though these are billed as the “friendly games”.
The baton is now on its way to Mozambique and from there we will cross the border into Swaziland , touching Lesotho afterwards before concluding the African leg of the African safari of the baton in South Africa.
From South Africa it will sail by boat for four days on its way to the island of St Helena. The message it carries will be read by her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, at the opening ceremony of the Games in Glasgow in July this ┬áyear..
And have no doubt, the South African team will be there to bag as many medals to make our country proud.
Meanwhile it was good to see the Blitzbok rugby sevens side reaching the final of the Wellington leg of the IRB Sevens Series… their performance is truly encouraging as we look to target medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in two years time.
In Pretoria this weekend our top judoka will be fighting at their trials and rankings and hopefully we can find some more stars in this code. Also good to see is that a number of new wrestlers are coming to the fore as the Commonwealth Games get closer.