A handwritten message from the Queen to athletes of the Commonwealth has begun a 288-day relay across the globe.
The monarch and Prince Philip took part in a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday as the Queen's Baton Relay — heralding the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow — got underway.
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With the flags of the Commonwealth nations and territories forming a colourful backdrop, the Queen personally placed the special scroll inside the baton. It was then sealed for its journey of more than 190,000 km to visit 70 competing nations and territories.
Famed Scottish sprinter Allan Wells was given the honour of being the first baton bearer. The athlete, winner of two Commonwealth golds and the 100m Olympic sprint title at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, turned and waved to the royal couple as he left the Palace gates.
The contents of the Queen's message will remain a secret until she reads it aloud at the opening ceremony of the Games at Celtic Park on July 23 next year.
Around 200 guests attended the launch of the relay, including Sir Chris Hoy. He escorted the empty baton as it made its processional journey down the Mall, accompanied by pipers, to the ceremony itself.
Sir Chris Hoy
On Thursday, the baton will travel to Scotland, before heading for its first international port of call in India.
The baton - made out of titanium, wood and granite - is expected to cover about 123,000 miles (198,000km) and will be the first baton ever to visit Rwanda.
It will spend an average of one to four days in each nation, with an extended duration of seven days in Wales, two weeks in England and 40 days in Scotland.