By Mark Etheridge
The Commonwealth Queen’s Baton Relay headed north to Tshwane on Wednesday as its South African trip slowly started winding down.
The baton has been busy since arriving in South Africa on Monday and Wednesday saw it being taken to iconic South African sites, the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park in Pretoria, Tshwane.
An early start saw the baton being sent off on the Gautrein north by school kids from the Rivonia, Wendywood and Skeen Primary Schools in Sandton.
Arriving in Pretoria, the baton was hosted at a function in Pretoria City Hall, where Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa gave a welcoming speech.
“This visit by the baton is not only about sport but about the building of a better nation and the power of sport must be celebrated.
“You are visiting two iconic places today in the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park. This is the old and the new.. contributing to the future of our country.”
After visiting the two landmark venues, the baton was then taken into the centre of the city by a variety of sports people, including soccer players, roller skaters and members of the Olympic gold-medal winning men’s fours team from 2012.
Even with her foot in a supporting brace after breaking it in early December, national and Olympic rower Naydene Smith was part of the action.
Commonwealth silver medallist 400m hurdler LJ van Zyl then took over on the short trip to the Union Buildings. “The baton wasn’t too heavy but I still changed hands twice as we ran about 2.5km,” said Van Zyl.
At the Union Buildings the delegation were entertained by demonstrations of rugby, soccer and aerobic gymnastics from the Blue Bulls (Inner City), Sunnyside Primary and the Tshwane University of Technology respectively.
Addressing the crowd, Deputy British High Commissioner to South Africa, Martin Reynolds said: “What a fitting place to end the relay’s visit today than in the shadow of the late President Nelson Mandela.
“The Commonwealth Games are about bringing people together, much like President Mandela did, and two billion people in the Commonwealth will be focusing on Glasgow later this year.
“Glasgow was the first city in the world to give Nelson Mandela the freedom of the city while he was still imprisoned and he visited the city in 1993 after his release. I’m sure the city would love to have had him in Glasgow for the Games and he would have loved to have been there.”
Speaking in his capacity as Commonwealth Games Federation vice-president, SASCOC President Gideon Sam wrapped up proceedings.
“On behalf of the CGF thank you for receiving us here in South Africa. And look up at Madiba’s open arms welcoming you all to Glasgow. When we assemble in Glasgow her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II will read the message in this baton to two billion people.
“Enkosi (thank you) for hosting the baton in South Africa.”
Thursday sees another short relay to Olympic House in Rosebank where a cocktail function will be hosted by SASCOC and the baton will then journey to OR Tambo International airport on an open bus before jetting to Cape Town where it will board a ship for the next leg of its journey to St Helena Island in the Atlantic Ocean.