Everybody’s talking about the status of Delhi’s roads, flyovers, hotels and stadiums, but there’s one other thing without which next year’s Commonwealth Games cannot start — the Queen’s Baton.
The Queen’s Baton Relay has been one of the great traditions of Commonwealth Games since their Cardiff edition in 1958. And for the 2010 Games in Delhi, the baton is scheduled to traverse 1.9 lakh kilometres across 70 Commonwealth countries — by land, air and even sea.
But unlike the previous relays, this time the Games’ organisers need not fret over the baton’s progress.
The 66.4-cm high-tech baton is GPS-enabled and can be tracked to within 10 metres of its position.
Queen Elizabeth II will officially launch the Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace, London, on or around October 29 this year. Her message will be displayed at the Games’ opening ceremony in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, when the baton is docked there on October 3, 2010.
Besides featuring GPS technology, the baton can click pictures and receive text messages.
It has a sound recording system to capture the ambient sounds of the countries that it passes through.
It can also record temperatures and pollution levels in keeping with the Delhi Games’ green initiative.
Everytime the baton enters a country, light emitting diodes (LEDs) on its surface will automatically light up in the colours of that country’s flag.
After a 240-day journey round the world, the baton will finally enter India at Wagah (Indo-Pak border near Amritsar) on June 25 next year — exactly 100 days before the Games begin.
“The baton will enter India from Pakistan at the Wagah border. The message the baton seeks to convey is peace through sports,” said Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Organising Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010, Delhi.
With a 100-day duration, the Indian leg of the relay will be one of the longest ever in the history of the Games.
For the Games in Manchester and Melbourne, the national legs of the relay had lasted only 50 days each.
The baton will move in India in a clockwise direction from Punjab. Most of the journey will be by road but travel to the Northeast and Kashmir will be done by air.
The baton will touch all four corners of the country — Kargil in the north, Kanyakumari in the south, Itanagar in the east and Jaisalmer in the west. Cities like Patiala, Gwalior and Tirupati are also part of the itinerary.
During the journey, the baton will travel in a cycle rickshaw, a tonga and even on an elephant.
In Agra, the plan is to airlift the baton in a helicopter and let skydivers return it to the ground.
For now, the plan is to have the baton enter Delhi on September 30, 2010 from the north along GT road. For the next two days, it will travel across Delhi before arriving at the opening ceremony on October 3.