The St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association (CGA) proudly entered the annals of the Commonwealth Games 2014 scheduled for Glasgow, Scotland, 23 July – 4 August, when it hosted its leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay on 14 and 15 March.The Queen’s Baton is a symbol of the Commonwealth Games and is intended to promote the ideals of the 70 – member Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and St Vincent and the Grenadines was the 46th country visited thus far in the 199,000km journey around the Commonwealth, ending at the Opening Ceremony of the Games in Glasgow on the evening of 23 July.
While many may have been somewhat apprehensive in respect of how this year’s QBR would have turned out on a holiday weekend, the reality proved quite interesting and particularly instructive for the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association.
At the end of the two hectic days of the QBR the visiting delegation felt satisfied that their expectations were more than met. They were enthused by what had been put in place and the efficiency with which all aspects of the programme were managed.
National Heroes Day
The Queen’s Baton arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines on the early LIAT flight from Trinidad and Tobago at 6.25am. On hand at the airport were several members of the executive of the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association led by president, Trevor Bailey.
Mrs Fortuna Belrose, Regional Vice President (Caribbean) of the Commonwealth Games Federation who is also the president of St Lucia’s Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Federation as well as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, handed over the Baton to Mr Bailey at a brief ceremony at the VIP Lounge at the ET Joshua Airport.
Bailey expressed his organisation’s distinguished pleasure at being allowed to host yet another edition of the QBR, the first having been in 2006 (when the Games were held in Melbourne, Australia) and in 2010 (when they Games were held in Delhi, India). He promised to deliver two days of excitement mixed with some of our nation’s proud heritage, culture and natural beauty. Her also guaranteed the full involvement of his organisation’s membership.
In response, Mrs Belrose spoke highly of the journey of the Baton thus far and of her expectations that the Caribbean and particularly St Vincent and the Grenadines would deliver a classy two days of the QBR.
From Fancy to Kingstown
The QBR’s St Vincent and the Grenadines leg moved very quickly from the ET Joshua airport to the north windward village of Fancy where the local community held its annual festival to observe National Heroes Day.
The QBR was integrated in the celebrations in Fancy and the patrons all get a brief insight into the nature of the QBR.
Mrs Belrose spoke to the rapidly growing crowd before handing over the Queen’s Baton to this country’s moist decorated distance runner, Pamenos Ballantyne, a native of the community above the Dry River. Before leading off the QBR Ballantyne took the opportunity to inform the crowd of the immense joy that filled him because of having been given the honour of being the first bearer of the Baton in the QBR in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association selected Ballantyne. to be the first runner out of recognition of his achievements in the sport of Athletics for this country He then handed the Baton to Dwight Baptiste another native of the peoples above the Dry River, and together they were joined by other members of the community as Team Athletics St Vin cent and the Grenadines carried the Baton on its first phase, through to Georgetown.
Then it was the turn of the Cycling Union to carry the Baton. The cyclists had ridden out to Fancy earlier and kept pace with the activities all along the route. From Georgetown, however, the cyclists carried the Baton until it was handed over to the Rugby Association.
The Swimming Association carried the baton from Calliaqua to the Grammar School Playing Field where there was a brief ceremony to conclude that part of the day’s activities.
Friday evening saw the Queen’s Baton being handed over to His Excellency Sir Frederick Ballantyne, the country’s Governor General at Government House, New Montrose.
Mrs Belrose made the official handing over of the Baton to the Governor General, in the process explaining to the guests the importance of the instrument.
Sir Frederick Ballantyne expressed his on immense gratitude at having the honour of receiving yet another Queen’s Baton in the year of the Commonwealth Games. He noted that the government remains committed to the Games and expressed the hope that this country would give good performances at the Games in Glasgow.
The guests at the Governor General’s reception each took the opportunity to take photo ops with the Queen’s Baton in the historic building.
The Queen’s Baton Relay was continued early Saturday morning on the Grenadine Isle of Mustique, where the students led off from the airport to the playing field where a ceremony took place.
A packed programme on Mustique ended with a brief social at the world-renowned Basil’s Bar. Basil Charles served this country as Attaché to the Olympic Games in both Beijing (2008) and London (2012) and will serve in the same capacity in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Kingstown segment
Following its return from Mustique the Squash Association carried the Baton from Sion Hill by through Cane Garden, through Kingstown proper. The Taekwondo Association then took the Baton up to Fort Charlotte, back before Boxing took over to carry it through Kingstown. Athletics then took the Baton from South River Road to the entrance to Murray Village where Table Tennis took control, through Rockies and Sion Hill to Arnos Vale, where the Netball Association received it. A fairly large contingent of Athletics and Football players with Ian Sardine’s Academy, carried the Baton through to the start of the Arnos Vale Playing Field.
Gloria Ballantyne MBE, carried the Baton down the Arnos Vale playing Field and finally, Elton Anderson, the lone survivor of the team that attended this country’s first participation at the then British Empire Games, received it.
There was a brief ceremony at the National Sport Council’s Sports Complex and the two-day journey of the Baton ended with a mini sport festival involving, Kids in Athletic s, Volleyball and Netball.
For the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association one of the most important features of the QBR this time around was the great collaboration between its affiliates. There was a certain eagerness of the affiliates to be involved and is perhaps a reflection of the growing relationship that the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association has been able to forge over the years.
Given that there is a new executive in place the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association requires the support of its affiliates as it readies itself for the challenges ahead. It is about the critical role that the organisation does in placing sport as a critical pillar in the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association must be heartened by the collaboration and the harmonisation of effort displayed in the planning and execution of the QBR in this country last weekend.
The hope now is that the team travelling to compete in Glasgow, Scotland, would do this nation proud both on and off the field.
The Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association must be enthused with the response received from some sections of the media.
NICE Radio gave live coverage on the two days of the QBR allowing Vincentians at home and in the Diaspora the opportunity to know what was happening at any given time.
NBC Radio was involved in providing some coverage of the QBR.
The print media also gave due consideration to the activity with appropriate stories.
The QBR’s leg in St Vincent and the Grenadines afforded the sports fraternity to appreciate just how well they can work together in their collective interest. It is now left to the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association to take advantage of the gains of the past weekend.
Together, the affiliates of the Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games Association can do much to improve the lives of our youth and of the entire country through sport.
We have just had a renewed opportunity to start. Let us build on it.