Proud day for Anne as she carries Commonwealth Games baton

A SHEERWATER woman has spoken of her pride at being selected as a bearer of the Queen’s Baton in a relay leading up to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Anne O’Neill was part of the relay leg across Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that marked the 10th anniversary of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Anne carries the baton, escorted by officers from West Midlands Police

“I was very proud, it was such an honour to be selected as a batonbearer,” said Anne. “There are only 2,200 people from the whole of England taking part.

“I was chosen because of all of my charity work and raising over £80,000 over many years, particularly for arthritis charities in memory of my mum, Kathleen Anne O’Neill.

“She sadly passed away in 1988 after suffering from this cruel and debilitating condition.

Anne, left, takes the baton from Yasmin to become a bearer in the Queen’s relay

“I have also supported epilepsy charities in memory of my sister Brigid, who passed away in 2001 after suffering a fatal epileptic seizure and drowning in the bath at home.”

Anne travelled to East London this month for her big day, part of the preparations for the Commonwealth Games, which run from 28 July to 8 August.

“It was a cold Sunday morning when I left Woking in my batonbearer’s uniform of pink-and-white T-shirt and grey trousers,” Anne said.

“I got up to Stratford about 8.20am, where I met the other batonbearers and a representative from the relay support team. There were 14 on my leg of the relay. We walked the route and were shown where to go by the representative.

“While I was waiting my turn, I was getting cold because of the damp and one of the policemen kindly let me borrow his boss’s jacket.

“I started at the back of the hockey pitch and collected the baton from Yasmin.

“I ran and walked, carrying the baton proudly for about a quarter of a mile, a smile on my face, with police officers surrounding me and directing me where to go.

“The torch was decorated with gold and green and it was heavy to carry. In front of the velodrome, I passed it on to the next batonbearer. A band was playing, which made it a cheerful atmosphere for everyone.

“Then I had a walk around the park, which brought back memories of 2012, when I was a Paralympics games maker.

“I travelled on to Westminster and watched the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant, which was enjoyable but, unfortunately, I didn’t get a very good view. At least I can say I was there.

Her stint completed and the baton safely handed over, Anne joins the band and performers outside the velodrome

“After a long day, I went home tired and cold, but happy. There was still time, though, to go to the house of the elderly man I’m a carer for and give him his supper.”

“I will always cherish being part of such a special and unique experience, and look back on the special memories of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The baton relay is taking place in 72 nations and territories over 294 days in the lead-up to the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Alexander Stadium, Birmingham on Thursday 28 July. More than 7,500 batonbearers are taking their turn.

“I’ll look forward to seeing the baton again in Birmingham when I go up to be a games maker for the Commonwealth Games,” said Anne. “I’ll be working at the squash arena.”

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