Situated in the eastern Mediterranean, it’s hard to escape the geographical importance of Cyprus and the history it holds. Each port on the island is guarded by castles or forts, built centuries ago and later captured, destroyed and rebuilt over the generations.
It was with this historical backdrop that the Queen’s Baton Relay began – in Paphos which can trace its history back to the fourth century BC. Athletes young and old ran with the baton through the streets of towns, along waterfronts and beside beachside tourist cafes and shops just beginning to remove shutters and prepare for the summer tourist season ahead.
Jessica Heap – an amateur golfer from the UK who has lived in Cyprus for 10 years – carried the baton from Paphos Fort to the start of the relay in the town. In Larnaca the following day, Mayor Andreas Louroutziatis took over from sprinter Skevi Andreou and ran the final leg of the relay as it arrived at the 12th century Byzantine Larnaca Castle. Skiers, sprinters, gymnasts and long distance runners all took part, enjoying the moment and waving to onlookers.
History and tradition was on show at the Town Hall in Paphos, as children from nearby schools heralded the arrival of the baton by giving a cultural performance. Girls in traditional dress performed the ‘Syrtos’ dance, holding white handkerchiefs and carrying the Queen’s Baton through a tunnel of extended and linked arms, after a fellow schoolboy had whirled through the ‘Tatsia’ dance.
Rain dampened the streets of Larnaca, Paralimni, and Nicosia, but not the spirits of the batonbearers. They ran with enthusiasm past churches, trees with purple flowers and coffee shops full of locals sipping coffee. The light of the baton glowed in the unusually overcast Cypriot sky, leading the batonbearers through the streets and ever onwards to the Opening Ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on 23 July.
Check out the latest images from the Queen’s Baton Relay in the galleries.