The Queen’s Baton Relay celebrates Commonwealth Day in New Zealand
The Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay arrived in New Zealand on 12 March and spent four days travelling the nation, coinciding with Commonwealth Day today.
This year, Commonwealth Day (14 March) was a celebration of “Delivering a Common Future” for all nations and territories in the Commonwealth by innovating, connecting, and transforming.
The Relay began on 7 October 2021 during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, where The Queen placed Her Message to the Commonwealth into the Baton. In total, the Queen’s Baton will spend 294 days travelling to all 72 Commonwealth nations and territories, bringing together communities from across the globe in the run up to Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
During the visit from the Queen’s Baton Relay, each Commonwealth Games Association organises an itinerary of activities, designed to showcase their local heroes and celebrate untold stories.
Kicking off on Saturday 12 March, the activities in New Zealand included a sunrise pōwhiri to welcome the Baton at the peak of Kaiti Hill in Gisborne. A pōwhiri is a welcome ceremony that involves speeches, singing, and cultural performances.
Continuing the Relay through Gisborne, Batonbearers paddled in a waka, a traditional Kiwi canoe, from Marina Park along the Tūranganui River to the mouth of the river, as members of the local community watched from the banks.
Then the Baton was taken to Lawson Field Theatre Riverbank, where athletes Michelle Rennie and Mellissa Louise Jones were eagerly awaiting its arrival.
The Baton then travelled south to Hawke’s Bay and visited Napier Basketball Court, where children of the community played basketball with athletes, including weightlifting champion and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Nigel Avery and the most capped international netball player of all time, Irene van Dyk.
The Baton was also taken to Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, where the Baton was held in the sky, whilst the birds soared around it.
Exploring more of the country on Sunday 13 March, the Baton travelled to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand.
It visited the Basin Reserve Cricket Ground to witness the Australia vs New Zealand game, an ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup event, to celebrate the upcoming debut of Women’s T20 Cricket into the Commonwealth Games programme. Kyle Pontifex, member of the bronze medal winning hockey team at Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, carried the Baton around the grounds.
That same day, The Right Honourable Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and The Honourable Grant Robertson interacted with the Queen’s Baton, learning about the intricate methods that were used to create the Baton in the West Midlands.
The following day, Monday 14 March, the Baton was present for Commonwealth Day celebrations at Wellington College, where athletes, including Lewis Clareburt, Sally Johnston, and Kyle Pontifex took part in a Q&A session for the students.
Later that day, the Governor General, Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, hosted a reception to celebrate Commonwealth Day and the Queen’s Baton Relay, guests included, Nigel Avery, President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee and former Olympic rower, Mike Stanley, as well as former President of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, Kereyn Smith.
The Baton’s final day in New Zealand started in former Commonwealth Games host city, Auckland, with a visit to Murray Halberg Retirement Village, where athletes Richie Patterson, Alexis Pritchard, Eve Williamson, and Ethan Mitchell carried the Baton with pride.
With anticipation for Birmingham 2022 building, Team New Zealand announced their team selections for para-bowling and weightlifting.
The day and Kiwi leg of the journey ended with a visit to Kolmar Recreation Centre, where athletes from around the Pacific Islands had the chance to carry the Baton.
Lewis Clareburt, Batonbearer and swimming champion, said: “I feel honoured and delighted to have been given the opportunity to represent my home city, Wellington, in the Queen’s Baton Relay, and to inspire the students of Wellington College. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the Relay in the run up to Birmingham 2022.”
Mike Stanley, President of New Zealand Olympic Committee, said: “It’s great to have the Queen’s Baton Relay in New Zealand as we build up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. It’s very appropriate that the Relay is here for Commonwealth Day, and we’ve been using this moment to celebrate what the Commonwealth stands for, and the many communities and cultures that connect us.
“Hosting the Relay has created a real buzz ahead of the Games, especially amongst our athletes. Excitement is building and the New Zealand Team can’t wait to get to Birmingham and show what we can do.”
Lisa Hampton, Head of the Queen’s Baton Relay, said: “It has been incredible to experience New Zealand’s culture through the lens of the Queen’s Baton Relay and be able to share special moments, such as the ceremony of the pōwhiri, with communities in every corner of the Commonwealth. It allows so many to be educated on the powerful symbolism of these performances.
“The Baton’s visit to New Zealand was made even more unique with Commonwealth Day festivities, to celebrate the communities and cultures within the Commonwealth.”
Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said “Commonwealth Day is such a special moment for our 72 nations and territories. It is a chance for us to reflect on our shared objectives and special bond.
A wonderful sunrise ceremony at the peak of Kaiti Hill in Gisborne is a fitting moment for the Queen’s Baton Relay, with New Zealand being one of the first time zones to welcome in Commonwealth Day. New Zealand will provide an amazing start to celebrations across the Commonwealth.”
The next destination along the Queen’s Baton Relay is Australia, host of Gold Coast 2018. The Baton will spend four days there before beginning its journey through the Americas with visits to Belize and Guyana.