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Busy day as Queen’s Baton Relay touches down
- Updated: February 11, 2014
By Mark Etheridge
The Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay breezed into town on Monday and immediately embarked on a whirlwind tour of Johannesburg.
The QBR arrived at OR Tambo Airport from Lesotho┬á just before noon, and will spend five days in South Africa, four of them in Gauteng and the fifth and final day in Cape Town.
It then heads by ship to St Helena island and then on to the Falkland Islands and then South America. South Africa is the 18th and final African destination on its lengthy worldwide tour that started on 5 October in Scotland and returns in time for the opening ceremony on 23 July.
SASCOC President Gideon Sam accompanied the baton and was acting in his capacity as Commonwealth Games Federation vice-president.
And Sam emphasised that there was an excellent chance that the 2022 Games would be hosted by an African country, the first time this would have happened.
“There are no bidders as yet but by March we will ask countries to give us an indication of whether they are bidding. But Its Africa’s turn and of the African countries any of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa would be expected to bid.”
Echoing Sam’s sentiments was Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. “The biggest fish is still the 2024 Olympics Games but if the Commonwealth Games come first that’s great. We owe it to Madiba, Nelson Mandela to bring the Games to South Africa.”
Also present at the airport arrival was British High Commissioner, Mrs Judith Mc Gregor who joined the baton relay for the Swaziland/Lesotho legs.
“The baton passed through places of tremendous historical importance and it has enormous symbolism, especially for the younger people. I’m delighted and proud to be with you here on behalf of the British government.”
Sam then handed the baton over to SASCOC Vice-President Mr Les Williams on behalf of the CWGF and the Local Organising Committee.
And it was away on an open topped bus with a gallery of prominent SA sportsmen and women, including Commonwealth Games gold medallist javelin ace Sunette Viljoen.
First stop was a guided tour of the Apartheid Musuem, a venue dedicated to ensuring that the horrors of forced segregation in the previous government would never be forgotten.
It was Viljoen who set off with the baton as part of a brief relay event that started in Mooki Street, near Orlando Stadium.
Then they were off to the Soweto Aquatics Centre where schoolkids at Orlando West High School were addressed by Sam and McGregor while being demonstrated the four strokes used in swimming at the Games.
The school was the same school that benefited to the tune of R100,000 when former President, the late Nelson Mandela’s will was read last week.
“Look at this baton very carefully,” Sam told attentive schoolkids. “When you watch this baton and its message being read out by the Queen on 23 July, you can say that you saw this baton when it came to South Africa.”
Tuesday sees the baton visiting the East Rand suburbs of Daveyton and Reiger Park.