Express & Star

Pride in the air Queen's Baton Relay comes to Wolverhampton - arriving by parachute

There was a warm feeling of pride in the air as hundreds of people came out to see the Queen’s Baton Relay in Wolverhampton.

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Queens Baton Relay arrived into Wolverhampton by parachute

The baton has travelled across 72 countries and territories and taken trips on planes, boats, wakeboards and canoes, but it hadn’t been parachuted anywhere until now.

Despite the day starting with heavy cloud cover, the parachute jump went ahead and entered East Park at 8am, thrilling the crowds who had been gathering since the early hours to get a glimpse of the baton, as well as being among the first hundred to get a bacon sandwich.

Tony Marshall from Darlaston Boxing Club was one of the baton-bearers at East Park and said it was a real achievement and honour to be involved.

He said: "I was gobsmacked when I found out, because I don't go out of my way to speak about my achievements, but it's an honour and something I'll always remember."

Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield was at the park to see the start of the relay and said it meant a lot to him to see the city represented at the Games.

He said: "We've been anticipating this for a couple of years now and the planning has gone on for many months with the organising committee, so it's a huge deal for the city.

"We had the Olympic torch here 10 years ago and that is still remembered now, so I hope this will be just as well remembered."

Queens Baton Relay Bearers in Queen Square

After enjoying a vocal reception from those in attendance, the celebrations went on at the park as the baton departed on a trip to Wolverhampton Wrestling Club at the Guru Nanak Satsang Gurdwara on Cannock Road, where it was received by trainees and head coach Ranjit Singh, one of the Games Home Town Heroes.

It then arrived at Aldersley Stadium to a raucous reception and was taken on three laps of the track by Commonwealth Gold medallist and cycling legend Hugh Porter, who then had the honour of passing it to his wife, six-time Commonwealth Games and Olympic gold medallist Anita Lonsbrough, with music from Bhangra group Hit the Dhol.

One of the baton-bearers at the stadium was former four-time Commonwealth athletics medallist Anyika Onuora, was said it was wonderful to see so many people out at the relay.

She said: "I feels amazing to have done this and this isn't my home city, but everyone has made me feel so welcome today, so I feel like this is my second home.

"The Commonwealth Games mean so much to me and I feel a real sense of pride that it's being held in a multi-cultural city like Birmingham, so I know we're going to put on a good show."

It departed Aldersley Stadium and was carried by the baton-bearers around Aldersley and into Whitmore Reans, stopping for a quick private visit for school children at St Andrew’s CE Primary School.

Steve Bull carries the Queens Baton to Molineux with a police escort

Baton-bearers such as youth leader Melvin Riley, charity fundraiser Shreen Mahmood and artist and fundraiser Dr Paul Darke enjoyed the sounds of the crowds as they carried the baton.

The route continued around West Park, the start and finish venue for the cycling time trial, before being received by Steve Bull at the Billy Wright statue at Molineux Stadium.

For Steve, it was an occasion that made him feel a bit nervous, but very privileged to be part of the event.

He said: "I've done a lot of things in my life, scoring all those goals and having a stand named after me, but this is right up there because it comes from the Queen.

"There's been around 7,000 people who have touched this baton and I'm very privileged and proud to be one of the people to do it."

The final route took it around Wolverhampton City Centre, with hundreds lining the route to cheer on the baton-bearers, before completing its morning journey at Queen Square, where a huge celebration event was taking place.

The Queen's Baton with the Mayor of Wolverhampton

With commentary from Dicky Dodd and a speech by the Mayor of Wolverhampton Councillor Sandra Samuels, the baton was the centre of attention, with people having the chance to have their photograph taken with the baton during a 20 minute period before the Baton departed for Dudley at 11.31am.

Laura Harris has done the baton relay in honour of her daughter, Skye Gardner, who passed away from coronary heart disease in March, aged 14.

She said she was relieved to get through it and was thankful for the crowds support.

She said: "I'm happy that I did it as it's been a bit of a whirlwind since Skye passed away and I'm glad I got to do it in her honour."

Councillor Samuels said she was absolutely ecstatic that the Games were nearly there and spoke of the importance for the city.

She said: "It's absolutely amazing for the city and to be the Mayor during this time is just fabulous.

"To have 49 baton-bearers from across the city is history in the making and something that will never happen again, so I want to say congratulations to all the baton-bearers and everyone who made this happen today."