A Rare Bit of Welsh History

May 27, 2014 at 8:03 am Leave a comment

The Olympic torch relay has become a significant curtain raiser for the event, and so too has the baton really for the Commonwealth Games.

Interestingly it is only the fact that Glasgow is hosting the games in a few months time that it has come to light that the relay first came into being for the Commonwealth Games in 1958 when Cardiff hosted the event; it was then called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

The premise of the really was to ‘symbolise peace and harmony through sports participation.’

The original baton from 1958 has been hidden away from the public, and it is believed ever since the Games were completed. It was only when the organisers of the Glasgow event started to enquire about the history of the relay that it was decided to bring it back out on display.

Dr Emma Lile, a curator at St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff, said it had not been on display because staff had only recently realised its significance.

“We think it was donated on The Queen’s orders after the Games,” Dr Lile told the BBC. “It was at the museum during the Games so it seems logical, and it’s been in the art department ever since. We hadn’t realised how significant it was in Wales’ sporting history.”

The baton was designed by Colonel Roy Crouch, who was a Cardiff jeweller and chairman of the medals committee in 1958, and it was decorated with the traditional Welsh symbols of a red dragon, daffodils, leeks as well as  crowns.

The original baton has now been dusted down from storage in the National Museum Wales archives and will play a role in the 2014 relay. It is believed it will appear alongside its modern counterpart when that touches down at Cardiff Airport.

Back in 1958 the baton relay set off from Buckingham Palace, and was was first carried by athlete Roger Bannister, the first sub-four minute miler. It then went through England before heading to every county in Wales over four days. The baton travelled more than 600 miles (1,000km) and was carried by 664 runners.

Sprinter and Wales rugby international Ken Jones, whose identity had been kept a closely guarded secret, was the man given the honour of carrying it into the stadium. Jones then handed it to Commonwealth Games Federation president the Duke of Edinburgh who read The Queen’s message to the crowd. The message was contained in the baton that had been carried by all of those runners.

Norman Richards who at the time was an 18 year old long jumper carried the original baton and has been asked to be a part of this year’s relay. In 1958 he ran three miles with the baton, but with more people involved in the relay this time around is expected to only have to carry it about 500metres in 2014.

Wales secured their best-ever finish on the medal table coming 11th, winning one gold, three silver and seven bronze. No doubt Scotland will be hoping to secure their best finish with the games in Glasgow.





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