Sport

A message of hope

Jamaica’s leg of Queen’s Baton Relay to inspire nation — organisers

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sport Editor

Saturday, March 22, 2014    

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THE arrival of the Queen's Baton Relay to Jamaica, by all indications, represents far more than a tradition and symbol of the Commonwealth Games.

On its one-week stopover in Jamaica, the baton — that encases a special message from the head of the British Commonwealth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth — will meander across Jamaica symbolising hope and inspiration, according to organisers.

During the islandwide relay, in which the baton will change hands at various key stops on its journey, a visit to Kingston's tough inner-city is packed into a rigid schedule with the hope of showing "the positive sides" of these polarsied communities.

After arriving in Jamaica from the British Virgin Islands on Saturday, April 5, the historic baton will begin its trek to what is considered Jamaica's underbelly the following day, making its first stop in Tivoli Gardens, the Kingston Western constituency of Desmond McKenzie.

It will then journey further west a few hours later to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's South West St Andrew constituency — moving along Waltham Park Road, D'Aguilar Road and onto Payne Avenue with a stop at the Haile Selassie High School.

From there, it will be carried to Three Miles and then to Waterhouse, another tough inner-city enclave and the childhood home of Jamaica's double Olympic sprint champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

The Jamaican track queen is expected to meet the relay party at Ashoka Road in Waterhouse.

Interestingly, Fraser-Pryce is a UNICEF ambassador, and the United Nations organisation has partnered with the Queen's Baton Relay, with the hope of promoting the value and relevance of the child in nation-building.

But the baton does not stop there. It will keep going until it covers the entire Jamaica, embracing on its scheduled stops some of Jamaica's most celebrated landmarks over the period of its visit.

Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president Mike Fennell said while the Queen's Baton Relay activities are similar in organisation in other places on its 190,000km and 288-day jog, Jamaica will bring its unique qualities to this "extraordinary event".

"There are many similarities (with other places), but Jamaica has a tremendous amount to show... when we were in the planning stage we had to figure what to leave out because there are so many things that we can do.

"We want to involve children, athletes, our citizens, community leaders; we tried to get a touch of everything," he told the Jamaica Observer at a press briefing at the JOA headquarters in Kingston yesterday.

Fennell, who served as head of the Commonwealth Games Federation and is currently a lifetime member, said the Queen's Baton Relay aims to, among other things, lift the peoples of the British Commonwealth, which numbers some 70 nations.

"It offers hope; it seeks to unite people. The legacy is not easy to measure... this thing goes around the world and people have memories that inspire them, and it's not just about sports, it gives them a feeling of hope and a feeling that they were recognised," said the long-serving athletics administrator.

Local organisers are hoping that the baton's visit will do the same for a Jamaica imperilled by poverty, social decay and disenchantment.

Donald Quarrie, who won gold in the sprints at the 1970, 1974 and 1978 Commonwealth Games, said he was excited at the prospects of the activities planned around the visit of the prestigious baton that was sent on its way by The Queen at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 9, last year.

"It's fantastic and I am in awe at the preparation at the planning stages and the way it's going to be implemented because it will involve a lot of our communities and it will involve a lot of sports personalities, our officials and our athletes," said the Jamaican sprint legend. "It (the baton's visit) will definitely be showcased at a very high level."

For the July 23 to August 3, 2014 Glasgow 20th Commonwealth Games, Quarrie said he expects a strong Jamaican team to be in Scotland.

"I am looking forward to our athletes going to Glasgow and performing well... the interest in the Commonwealth Games is coming back and many of our elite athletes have expressed their interest, from last year, in going to Glasgow and we will have a strong team," Quarrie said at yesterday's press function.

In reflecting on his glory days at the Commonwealth Games, the Montreal Olympic gold medallist over 200m said the performances "were fantastic".

"At the time I performed at the Commonwealth Games, it was very important to me; it also had a lot of the elite athletes and the performances were fantastic," he recalled.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton said he was "very excited" at the Queen's Baton arriving on the island and the mouth-watering expectations of the Jamaican athletes in Glasgow.

After Jamaica, the Queen's Baton will travel to the Cayman Islands.

At the Glasgow Games opening ceremony, the baton will return to The Queen, who will remove her message and read it aloud, officially declaring the games open.

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