Queen’s baton passes through the Lowveld

MBOMBELA – Dignitaries from South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, the Commonwealth Games Federation, the Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation, and various well-known local athletes and sporting teams took part in the three-kilometre walk which started at Westaffen Train Station and ended at Mbombela Stadium.

The route held special historic value because of the royal visit to Mataffin in 1947 when Queen Elizabeth was just 21 years old.

Along the way, the queen’s baton was passed from athlete to athlete who represented the Pumas rugby team, three local soccer teams, the KaBokweni netball team, wheelchair basketball and athletics.

Josiah Thugwane, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Gold medallist for marathon, also participated in the procession. Australian high commissioner, Adam McCarthy, said it was wonderful to be in Mbombela.

Both the mayors of the City of Mbombela and Ehlanzeni District were absent from the event but MMC for community services, Cllr Sipho Siwela filled the role of acting mayor, taking photos alongside the Australian high commissioner with the tree planted by the Australian team during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The vice-president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Gideon Sam, spoke to the teams and representatives during a presentation in Mbombela Stadium.

“This baton goes to all the countries of the Commonwealth, there are more than 70 of them. On the continent of Africa, our country is number 18 and this stop in Mbombela and Mpumalanga is the last stop of the baton,” Sam said.

“From here, it goes to the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia and New Zealand. At the opening ceremony of the games, at a stadium like this, the queen will read the message inside the baton to the almost half billion people watching in Commonwealth countries around the world.
You are very privileged to have been a part of this day as not many South Africans will see it.”

The baton relay continued to Bushbuckridge and Thaba Chweu municipalities on Thursday. The opening ceremony for the 2018 Commonwealth Games takes place in Gold Coast, Australia on April 4, 2018.

Nozinda Nyambi was a 14-year-old drum majorette during the royal visit of 1947.

Philippa Francis

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