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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 15:51 GMT
Baton relay heralds Jubilee Games
The Queen and Sir Roger Bannister
Sir Roger Bannister received the baton from the Queen
Sporting stars and celebrities have joined the Queen to launch the official countdown to the Jubilee year Commonwealth Games.

The Queen's Jubilee Baton Relay will send a baton on a 58,000 mile trip, visiting much of the UK and 23 countries in the Commonwealth before arriving in Manchester for the opening ceremony on 25 July.

Sir Roger Bannister - the first man to run a mile in under four minutes - started the race after receiving the baton from the Queen at Buckingham Palace on Monday.

It is a great honour for me, there are a lot of famous people here. I'm only a curler

Rhona Martin
He passed it to record-breaking runners Sebastian Coe, who is now a Lord, and Steve Cram.

The baton was passed between other sports stars as they made their way down The Mall, including Olympic champion rower Sir Steve Redgrave; footballing legends Sir Bobby Charlton; Olympic hurdler Sally Gunnell; and gold medal curler Rhona Martin.

Actress Claire Sweeney, conductor Mark Elder and Eurovision song contest entrant Jessica Garlick also attended the launch.

The official Games anthem Ain't No Stopping Us Now, fireworks from the roof of Buckingham Palace and the release of hundreds of balloons completed the official send-off.

Click here to see a map of the baton's world route

The baton was taken to the launch of the 10-kilometre British Golden Jubilee Open Road Race in Trafalgar Square in London.

The race came not only on Commonwealth Day, but exactly six months after the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York.

The band of the Welsh Guards and fire-fighters from New York were present at the start of the race, and led a minute's silence to remember the victims.

The race started on Piccadilly and passed various London landmarks before finishing by the River Thames opposite the Millennium Wheel.

Special song

Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis was due to present the baton for a blessing during the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

The service was attended by the Queen, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and high commissioners from across the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Games 2002 logo
The Games begin in Manchester in July
A 1,000-strong choir of children led by opera diva Lesley Garratt was to perform Drop In The Ocean.

This is a new six-minute song commissioned especially for the jubilee by charity the National Foundation for Youth Music.

Later on Monday the baton will return to Buckingham Palace, where there will be a reception marking the Queen's 50 years as head of the Commonwealth.

Events were being broadcast live on a big screen in Manchester's Albert Square, on the day that the city's Commonwealth Games stadium is officially handed over.

The Queen's Baton Relay has been the traditional Commonwealth Games countdown since the 1958 Games in Cardiff.

The baton starts its international leg when it is flown to Canada on Tuesday.

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See also:

05 Mar 02 | England
Flat cap heads for image row
04 Dec 01 | England
UK festival celebrates games
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