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The Queen’s Baton in Rodriques

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An article written by the British High Commissioner in Mauritius.

The Queen’s Baton was in Mauritius 1-3 February. Some decent public diplomacy and interest in Mauritius, but the real master stroke was taking the Baton on an 900 mile round-trip plane ride to Mauritius’ oft-forgotten and much smaller sister island of Rodrigues. Rodriguans participated with great enthusiasm as they enjoyed an “historic moment” for their island, recovering from Cyclone Amara in December 2013.

1.       The Baton arrived in Mauritius late in the evening on 1 February, and was received by the President and the Sports Minister at State House on the morning of Sunday 2 February, to considerable media interest. Around 800 athletes, including the High Commission team, jogged or (mainly) walked with the baton in baking heat, culminating in a ceremony at the island’s largest shopping centre amidst busy and curious crowds, featuring Mauritius’ only ever Commonwealth gold medallist and Miss Mauritius, amongst others. The day finished with a dinner hosted by the local Olympic Committee.

2.       The following day, our Deputy High Commissioner and Political Officer accompanied the baton and the Glasgow 2014 team (sadly minus the BBC crew who were unable to get their equipment aboard the small inter-island shuttle plane, and unwilling to travel without it) on a day-trip to the island of Rodrigues. Rodrigues is a semi-autonomous part of Mauritius, a small island of just 38,000 people, which was badly affected by Cyclone Amara in December 2013. Its claim to fame is that it hosted part of Prince William’s gap year, where he learned scuba diving with Shoals Rodrigues, a partner NGO of the High Commission.

3.       The baton was received with immense enthusiasm in Rodrigues, with pupils from all of the island’s 15 primary schools, including a school for the disabled, lining the route, and over 4,000 people (more than 10% of the population) participating in the baton relay. Our (Glaswegian) Honorary Consul carried the baton into the capital, Port Mathurin, wearing a kilt, and DHC distributed Scottish memorabilia and sports equipment to schools. The event was carried live on the radio, and we carried a running commentary via twitter and facebook. The day finished with a specially choreographed Scottish version of the local dance, the sega.

4.       Taking the baton to Rodrigues was an imaginative idea, much appreciated by the local population as they rebuild the island following the cyclone. The relay allowed us to find a good reason to engage with Rodrigues, and will have been a memorable day for the island’s population, helping increase awareness of Scotland, the UK, the Commonwealth and the Games

NICK LEAKE, British High Commissioner, Port Louis, Mauritius.


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