With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in full swing, we take a look back at the final days leading up to the sport, as the Queen’s Baton Relay took centre stage, connecting with communities through the host region of the West Midlands.
The regional tour was made even more significant as it represented the Queen’s Baton returning home, as it was designed and manufactured in an innovative West Midlands collaboration that fused art, technology, and science.
The original concept and technology for the Baton was led by BOM (Birmingham Open Media), and the design by Warwickshire’s Raymont-Osman, in association with MAOKWO and Kajul.
BOM led on the unique technological components inside the Baton, which were designed to display connectivity and represent the power of collaboration. It includes LED lighting and a heart-rate sensor, performing a lighting display when held by a Batonbearer, as well as a 360-degree camera to capture images and digital information. The Baton also features atmospheric sensors with laser technology that analyse the environmental conditions wherever it is in the world.
Raymont-Osman, Kajul and artist Laura Nyahuye from MAOKWO collaborated on the unique design of the Baton. With Birmingham 2022 making history by being the first major multi-sport event to award more medals to women than men, the strength and fortitude of women across the Commonwealth is celebrated throughout the design of the Baton. The Baton has a platinum strand, paying homage to The Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year. To represent the bronze, silver and gold medals that athletes are competing for, the Baton has been made from copper, aluminium and brass.
The Queen’s Baton is now available to see at BOM, with the opportunity to discover more about the epic 294-day journey the Baton has taken across the Commonwealth. Open daily from 11am-4pm, with the Baton on display until 8 August.
A look back at the memorable moments from 11 days in the West Midlands:
18 July – From Nigeria to Stoke-on-Trent
Day one of the Queen’s Baton Relay in the West Midlands kicked off in the north of the region, including a visit to Hanley Park in Stoke-on-Trent where community Batonbearer Brian Kokoruwe had the pleasure of carrying the Baton. An inspiration to those around him, Brian contracted meningitis when he was 13 years old, leaving him profoundly deaf and unable to walk, yet through his self-determination and physiotherapy, Brian regained the ability to walk again but not his hearing. Since then, he has represented Great Britain as a Deaflympics Sprinter, Manager and Coach, has raised awareness and money for the Deaf community, volunteers for the National Deaf Children Society giving hope to parents with young deaf children, led a heritage project to record and share memories of Deaf Olympians, and has inspired others to learn British Sign Language.
As Brian approached the pavilion at the park, he was welcomed by crowds of people all excitedly waving their hands, showing the British Sign Language action to demonstrate applause for Brian. And what made the moment even more touching, was that Brian’s family had travelled all the way from Nigeria to see him carry the Baton, and you could just see them bursting with pride for their son.
19 July – Baton takes on Oblivion
As if the Baton hadn’t already been on a rollercoaster journey, it was taken to the ultimate extreme when Batonbearers took the Baton on Alton Towers’ infamous ride, Oblivion – the world’s first vertical drop roller coaster.
Batonbearer Marnie Woolrich was brave enough to take it on. Marnie had a thriving gymnastics career when she was growing up, having medalled at the British championships for her age bracket. But when she became injured, it transpired into Perthes disease which saw her undergo multiple operations which ultimately led to a total hip replacement last year. Despite this she has continued to go to the gym and to support her teammates and volunteer as a coach to younger upcoming gymnasts. Now she has a new hip her aspirations are to compete in another British championships. Her courage, determination and positive attitude is unmissable – and this bravery shone through as she took on the intense 4.5G drop of Oblivion.
20 July – a touching tribute in Tamworth
Thousands of excited members of the community gathered at Tamworth Castle Grounds for the Queen’s Baton Relay festivities. After a relay of 26 Batonbearers through Coton Lane and Lichfield Road, the Batonbearers gathered at the festival site to soak up the incredible atmosphere. But there was not a dry eye in the crowd during the moment sibling Batonbearers Ellie and Billy took to the stage. The brother and sister duo carried the Baton in memory of their mother, Katie Rigby, who had an incredible sporting background in both swimming and athletics but was sadly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and tragically lost her battle aged 39 in 2021. In a touching tribute, the pair spoke bravely on stage about how proud they were to be selected and acknowledged how much their mum would’ve have loved to be amongst the celebrations.
21 July – Coventry Cathedral is transformed
The final activity in Coventry saw the city’s cathedral illuminated in a mesmerising light show featuring dazzling laser effects. The project was specially commissioned by Coventry City Council for the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay and is a nod to the innovative lighting technology incorporated within the Baton’s design.
Mikey Akers was the lucky Batonbearer chosen to experience this moment who was nominated based on his inspirational journey. At the young age of 13, he set up Mikey’s Wish in a bid to raise the profile of verbal dyspraxia. He overcame his fear of public speaking when he travelled to America to speak at a National Conference about the disorder. He raises funds to support children in school with additional needs and has donated a total of £25,000 to SEN departments in two schools. Part of his fundraising included taking on a challenge of running 500 miles, an average of 26 miles a week. He’s an inspiration to many!
22 July – eldest Batonbearer takes it on!
The eldest Batonbearer in the Queen’s Baton Relay took centre stage during a visit to Broadway Tower, the iconic landmark atop of Beacon Hill, the second highest point in the Cotswolds. John Farringdon celebrated his 109th birthday on 7 June 2022, making him oldest man in the West Midlands. Born in Enfield a year before the First World War, John recalls watching the British Empire Games when he was 17 years old.
23 July – Full steam ahead on the Heritage Railway
The Queen’s Baton went full steam ahead when Batonbearers went all abord the heritage Severn Valley Railway. The community heroes hopped on the train in Kidderminster and rode the full 16-mile route to Bridgnorth, all the while relaying the Baton through the carriages as their friends and families cheered them on from their seats. Crowds gathered at the stations along the route to watch the train go past and support the local Batonbearers.
Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, joined the Batonbearers on the locomotive route and reminisced with Batonbearer Nicholas Birkmyre about the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, as they had both competed there. To make the moment even more special, as Nicholas carried the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton, he wore his medal from Perth 1962.
24 July – sky is the limit in Wolverhampton
Batonbearer Stephen Kingdom got the Relay off to a flying start in Wolverhampton when he parachuted into East Park. The parachute jump was a bit touch and go due to the morning’s cloudy conditions but fortunately Stephen was able to land in the park filled with members of the local community who had come out to see the soaring start to the day, which marked just five days to go until the Opening Ceremony.
25 July – celebration of colour at Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick
There was a magical celebration in Smethwick at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara as local Batonbearer Parmjit Singh carried the Baton with style, met by cheering crowds, dhol drummers and colourful confetti canons. Parmjit has been a pillar of the local Sikh and Punjabi community in Birmingham for many years, often bringing people together from different backgrounds and religions via his work in sport, such as kabaddi. He was also influential in developing the Sandwell/Amritsar twinning in 2000. He is an inspiration to all generations in Smethwick and Birmingham.
26 July – Solihull welcomes the Baton
An incredible 140 inspiring members of the community took on the role of Batonbearer on 26 July, marking it as the day with the most Batonbearers. From walking and running, to riding an electric bus and dancing, each Batonbearer took full advantage of their moment carrying the Baton to really enjoy themselves!
One of which was Aran Rahman-Jackson, who carried the Baton in Dorridge. Aran, who has cerebral palsy, has a huge passion for sport, goes swimming every day, plays walker football, wheelchair rugby and has completed several 5k charity walks to raise funds for those less fortunate. Recently, Aran raised over £11k, allowing him to send mobility equipment to Kurdistan. Aran’s goal is to inspire other young people and show them that anything is possible and that a disability doesn't define you or how your life will map out.
27 July – welcome home, Queen’s Baton Relay
The Baton made its triumphant return back to Birmingham for the first time with a spectacular homecoming party held in Victoria Square on the eve of the Games. Local legend Sir Lenny Henry CBE had the honour of carrying the Baton into the celebration as colourful confetti rained down on the throngs of people excited to see the Baton come home.
28 July – dancing into the Opening Ceremony
King Gurcharan Mall drummed his way to the finish line as the final Batonbearer at Aston Hall, the last stop of the Relay before the Opening Ceremony. Bhangra legend, King, quite literally marched to the beat of his own drum, with the Baton attached to his body through the use of the harness, his hands were free to beat his drum as members of his local community danced along the route with him.