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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 13:19 GMT
Baton begins Commonwealth journey
Cathy Freeman and Elle McPherson with the baton
Olympic champion Cathy Freeman and Elle McPherson with the baton
The Queen has handed the Commonwealth Games 2006 baton to supermodel Elle McPherson, launching the world's longest relay from Buckingham Palace.

The baton, carried by thousands of runners, will travel 110,000 miles through 71 countries on its way to Melbourne, Australia, for the games.

It contains a message from the Queen which will be read out at the opening ceremony on 15 March 2006.

The Queen's baton relay has been part of the games since 1958.

QUEEN'S BATON RELAY ROUTE
Baton's route
14 March: The baton relay starts outside Buckingham Palace in London
18 March: Reaches Cardiff
21 March: Reaches Douglas, Isle of Man
24 March: Reaches Belfast
27 March: Reaches Glasgow
31 March: Reaches St Peter Port, Guernsey
The baton then travels to Gibraltar, Cyprus and Malta before returning to St Helier, Jersey by 12 April
It returns to London by 15 April en route to Gambia
It will arrive in Melbourne on 24 January 2006, having visited all 71 Commonwealth nations

Speaking to the BBC after handing the baton on to a runner, Australian supermodel Elle McPherson said she was "very, very honoured" to be part of the ceremony, adding the Queen "looked delicious in her pink suit".

She said the Commonwealth Games was a celebration of culture and sport, which was very important.

"Particulary as Melbourne is a city that really portrays that," she said.

The model carried the baton through the gates of Buckingham Palace before handing it to 2000 Olympic 400-metre champion Cathy Freeman.

Freeman gave the baton to Kelly Holmes, the British gold medalist in the 800 and 1,500 metres at last year's Athens Olympics.

Dame Kelly took up the baton at Clarence House, home of the Prince of Wales, and handed it to 2004 Olympic boxing lightweight silver medallist Amir Khan further along The Mall.

Also at the Palace for the start were the Duke of Edinburgh, the Household Cavalry, Royal British Legion Band and schoolchildren carrying the flags of the Commonwealth, plus six London taxis in the Melbourne Games livery.

By 18 March the baton will reach Wales before travelling to the Isle of Man on 21 March.

It will arrive in Northern Ireland by 24 March, Scotland by 27 March and Guernsey on 31 March.

On 3 April it will be in Gibraltar, followed by Cyprus on 7 April, Malta on 10 April before returning to the Channel Islands and Jersey on 12 April and England by 15 April.

It then travels to Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, Asia before the final strait to Australia having visited all 71 Commonwealth countries.

A message from the Queen is stored on a memory chip in the baton, which has 71 lights on its front - representing the 71 Commonwealth nations. These will progressively light up as the baton arrives in each country.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch the Queen hand over the baton



SEE ALSO:
Profile: The Commonwealth
29 Dec 04 |  Country profiles


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