Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay brings unity through community

The BVI Olympic Committee (BVIOC) in its capacity as the Commonwealth Games Association (BVICGA) hosted the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay in the Virgin Islands (UK) on Tuesday, May 3 and Wednesday, May 4.

The two-day event brought a perceptible positive energy at a time of political uncertainty in the territory. With a focus on celebrating culture, untold stories, heritage and traditions as well as the road to a sustainable-lifestyle future, the BVICGA worked closely with the Department of Culture and the Department of Education, Green VI and members of the community to deliver an engaging and elevating Queen’s Baton Relay as it toured communities on Tortola and Virgin Gorda.

“The Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay in the BVI delivered a most unexpected and welcome relief from troubled times during the two days that it toured our territory,” said Mr. Ephraim Penn, President pf the BVICGA. “The high energy and enthusiasm with which the Queen’s Baton was received by all who participated in the events were uplifting and encouraging as, once again, we see the power of sports in bringing the community together in shared hope. This did not go unnoticed by the Birmingham 2022 Global QBR organisers in the UK who shared with us that this was one of their favourite Queen’s Baton Relays!”

The Queen’s Baton arrived into the territory from Dominica on May 2 ahead of the official welcome and opening ceremony at the A.O. Shirley Recreation Grounds on May 3 when the Baton made its entrance in the hands of some of the BVI’s past Commonwealth Games athletes to include Lindel “Chef” Hodge, Steve Augustine, Ralston “Grandfather” Henry, Tynelle Gumbs, Trevia Gumbs and Joe Chapman.

Remarks by H.E. Governor John Rankin, Premier Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley and Mr. Ephraim Penn, President of the BVICGA and an explanation of the workings of the Queen’s Baton by Mr. Joe Chapman, Baton Manager and 4x Commonwealth Games squash player, were part of a programme featuring recitals and performances of cultural and heritage significance curated by Dr. Katherine Smith, Director of the Department of Culture and presented by Poet Laureate Dr. Richard Georges, author and poet Miss. Anika Christopher, Mr. Phil Aspinall, MBE, the Comfoo Dance Ensemble, Leonora Delville Primary School, and the Razor Blades.

The relay legs through Road Town included heritage and museum sites such as the Sugarworks Museum, J.R. O’Neal Botanic Gardens, the Sunday Morning Well, H.M. Prison Museum, Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park, Sir Olva Georges Plaza and Old Government House Museum. Information was shared on the history of the location at each of the sites.

The Queen’s Baton was driven to the Ebenezer Thomas Primary School, Sea Cow’s Bay from where it was run to Manuel Reef Marina and sailed aboard a Traditional Tortola Sloop and a Feva of the Royal BVI Yacht Club Sailing Federation youth racing fleet to the beach at Nanny Cay Resort and Marina.

An afternoon stop at Carrot Bay included a visit with the fishing family of Mr. Albert Stoutt and his sons Zacchari and Andrew, who continue to supply the local community and restaurants with fish and lobster caught in the traditional and sustainable way of seine and line fishing and free diving. All present were treated to an impromptu scratch band performance at the North Shore Shell Museum owned by Mr. Egbert “Shellman” Donovan.

The Queen’s Baton was welcomed by students, staff and faculty at the Leonora Delville Primary School and representatives from the Jost Van Dyke Primary School before the Day 1 relay ended with a visit to the coal pit at Capoon’s Bay where pit owner, Mr. Palett explained the process for preparing, generating and harvesting charcoal in the traditional way.

An evening reception hosted by the Governor was attended by the Carifta 2022 athletes, Commonwealth Games athletes and representatives of the National Federations.

On the morning of May 4, the Queen’s Baton and delegation arrived at the Bregado Flax Education Center in Virgin Gorda for a warm reception programme executed by the Primary and Secondary divisions with remarks by Principal Hilroy George, Hon. Shereen Flax-Charles, Representative at Large, and Hon. Vincent Wheatley, District 9 Representative and Mr. Penn.

A visit to the school’s Green Sprouts Edible Garden was followed by a relay to the Green VI Eco Park for a tour and overview of the work undertaken at the site by Green VI in association with Green VI Bug Out and which speak to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The afternoon leg through East End and Long Look included Baton handover spots at national heritage sites of the Chapel Hill Methodist Church, the Long Look Methodist Church and the Stickett.

The Queen’s Baton Relay in the BVI was brought to a close with a sports showcase and a traditional-rules, tug-of-war refereed by Mr. Elmore Stoutt. The cultural finale entertained and educated through songs, dances and story-telling that spoke to national heritage and the VI’s history and maritime connections performed by the Zion Sounds, Ms. Bria Smith, the Comfoo Dance Ensemble, the Heritage Dancers, Mrs. Valerie Lettsome and Miss Rosie Smith.

The next stop for the Queen’s Baton Relay was St Kitts and Nevis as it makes its way back to the UK for the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games on July 28.

The key stakeholders involved in the planning and hosting of events included the Governor’s Office, the Premier’s Office, the Ministry of Education, Culture Youth Affairs, Agriculture and Fisheries, the Departments of Culture, Education, and Youth Affairs and Sports, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force and the BVI Tourist Board.

Event sponsors include the BVI Banking Association – Banco Popular, Bank of Asia, CIBC FirstCaribbean, FirstBank, National Bank of the Virgin Islands, Republic Bank, and VP Bank – Caribbean Insurance Ltd, Clarence Thomas Ltd, Coralisle Insurance (BVI) Ltd, O’Neal Webster, Road Town Wholesale Trading Ltd, Walkers, Harneys and JOMA Properties.

National Federations, schools, and community and social groups supported the event as volunteers and participants in the relays through the districts.

The BVICGA has hosted four Queen’s Baton Relays since 2005, the last one being in 2017 ahead of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia where Kyron McMaster made history by winning the territory’s first Commonwealth Games medal with a gold in the 400m hurdles.

The VI is expecting to take its largest contingent yet to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with 19 athletes representing the territory in 5 sports – a first for the nation. 3×3 Basketball (Women’s Team) and Cycling will make their debut at a Commonwealth Games as the teams join athletes from track and field, squash and swimming.

The 16th official Queen’s Baton Relay touring through 72 Commonwealth nations and Overseas Territories will cover a distance of 140,000 kilometres over 269 days, traveling to Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean and the Americas, before embarking on the final stretch of its journey across England for 25 days.

The Queen’s Baton Relay will complete its journey at the Opening Ceremony – a traditional and fundamental part of the Games as the final Batonbearer passes the Baton back to The Queen or her representative. The Queen’s message to the Commonwealth will then be removed from the Baton and read aloud, marking the official start of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Read the full report.

Photos of the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay touring the BVI can be seen on the BVIOC’s Facebook page.