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Launch of 2018 Commonwealth Baton and search for new 2022 hosts

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II look on as former track cyclist Anna Meares of Australia holds The Queen's Baton during the launch of The Queen's Baton Relay for the XXI Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast in 2018 at Buckingham Palace on March 13, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
by Philip Barker, Olympic historian
LONDON, March 13, 2017 ñ The 2018 Commonwealth Games Queenís Baton Relay was launched on a day of contrasting emotions. Shortly after the first runners left Buckingham Palace on a 388 day journey to Queenslandís Gold Coast, it was officially confirmed that Durban would not after all host the 2022 Games.

It was to have been the first Games held on the African continent.The Games were expected to cost 8 billion South African Rand but lack of financial backing from the South African government has now caused the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)to look elsewhere.

ëíIt is with disappointment that the detailed review has concluded there is a significant departure from the undertakings provided in Durbanís bidíí said a CGF statement.

South African official Gideon Sam spoke of ëí a huge disappointment for us and for the whole African continent.íí

Durban had been the only candidate when it was awarded the Games in 2015 after the Canadian city of Edmonton ,( hosts in 1978) had withdrawn from the race.

The British cities of Birmingham and Liverpool are both said to be considering offering to stage the Games but Auckland, hosts in 1950 and 1990 have ruled out a third hosting at this stage.

Durban is not the first city from South Africa to withdraw from hosting the Commonwealth Games. Back in the 1930s, Johannesburg had been allocated the 1934 celebration of what were then known as British Empire Games. Financial difficulties contributed to the decision but many, particularly in Canada, were deeply troubled by a ë colour bar ë which enforced segregation in South African sport in the years before Apartheid was fully enforced.Those Games were eventually held in London with cycling in Manchester.

The decision to strip Durban of the Games might well set back the prospect of an African Olympic Games by many years. It is also another indication that the sheer cost of staging multi sports events is beyond the reach of many countries. Only Paris and Los Angeles remain in the race to host the 2024 Olympics ahead of decision day in Lima this autumn, after a similar two horse race for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Meanwhile London produced a sparkling day to launch the baton relay for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.. The Queen traditionally sends a message of greeting to Commonwealth Games athletes to be carried by relay in a specially designed baton. Paralympic and Commonwealth champion Kurt Fearnley was escorTed by the Band of the Scots Guards to deliver it to Buckingham Palace The message was entrusted to Australiaís Olympic and Commonwealth cycling gold medallist Anna Meares . She was joined by her great rival from England, Victoria Pendleton . Later the baton was also carried by singer and actor Cody Simpson who was driven away in a camper van typically used by surfers on Queenslandís gold coast.

The relay will visit every Commonwealth nation and territory in a journey lasting 288 days before it arrives on Australian soil where it will spend a further 100 days. When it finally arrives at the stadium for the Opening ceremony, The Queenís representative will read the message before opening the Games. Buckingham Palace have not yet indicated which member of the Royal family will perform this duty.
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