The Queen’s Baton passed through Canada this week on its way to the 19th Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.
Few took notice of the relay that will take the baton to 72 countries on five continents before reaching Nehru Stadium and the opening ceremony Oct. 3.
That’s a shame when you consider the significance of one of the oldest multi-sport gatherings on the face of the earth and what it says about the power of athletics to create understanding between cultures.
The Commonwealth Games began in 1930 in Hamilton as the British Empire Games. Over the years they have showcased magnificent sporting achievement.
Roger Bannister of England and John Landy of Australia both ran the “Miracle Mile” in less than four minutes in Vancouver in 1954.
The legendary “Kip” Keino and the Kenyan distance runners initially made their mark in Kingston, Jamaica in 1966. The Games first ventured to Asia in 1998 at Kuala Lumpur. There, a 13-year-old diver from Canada, Alexandre Despatie, became the youngest major games champion. In Manchester in 2002, Ian Thorpe of Australia, one of the greatest swimmers of all time, won six gold medals.
More important than the exploits of the sporting stars is the pioneering spirit of the Commonwealth Games. A far cry from the very “British” field day they once were, the Games have come to include developing parts of the world hungry to express themselves through the pursuit of sport.
India’s population of 1.17 billion is second largest in the world next to the Peoples Republic of China. Yet, the upcoming Commonwealth Games represent the largest sporting event ever staged in India’s history.
There are, of course, issues.
Overcrowding, pollution, poverty and lack of infrastructure are hurdles to overcome. But the same can be said of most countries vis-à-vis sporting spectacles. The important thing being the Commonwealth Games and India are willing to try.
Sport aspires to be unlike politics, religion and economics. It attempts to break down barriers instead of creating them.
Therefore, more power to the Commonwealth Games.
In a year where FIFA is courageous enough to take the World Cup to Africa for the first time, we should all take notice of the path of the Queen’s Baton.
Its’ journey signals the power of sport is reaching more people around the globe than ever before.