In the countdown to any Commonwealth Games, there are unique and special milestones which cause all of us to pause and reflect on what has gone before, and what is still to come.

For everyone involved with Commonwealth Sport, the launch of the Queen’s Baton Relay is one of those moments.

This week (in surprisingly pleasant conditions for England in October!) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our Patron, sealed her message inside the beautiful Birmingham 2022 Baton.

I was very fortunate to welcome the Queen and our Vice Patron, The Earl of Wessex, to this special ceremony on the forecourt of the Palace and to hand her the Baton. It was such a humbling experience, although admittedly very nerve-wracking!

We were joined by athletes who will be competing in next year’s Games, young flagbearers from the West Midlands, the Birmingham 2022 Hometown Heroes and representatives from across the Commonwealth.

Her Majesty’s message was brought to the stage by Haseebah Abdullah, a Hometown Hero and England’s first hijab-wearing boxing coach. The Queen then placed her message into the Baton to be sealed and locked.

Four-time Paralympic gold medallist, Kadeena Cox, had the honour of being the first athlete to receive the Baton, marking the official start of the 16th Queen’s Baton Relay.

The Baton is now on its 294-day journey across all of our 72 nations and territories. In total, it will cover 140,000 kilometres, before returning to Alexander Stadium for the Opening Ceremony, where the message will be broadcast to the world.

For me, the Baton symbolises hope, solidarity and collaboration across the Commonwealth, at a time when it is most needed.

I am pleased to report that we remain fully on track to stage a specular sporting and cultural event across the West Midland next year. We are delighted that many of our outstanding athletes are committing to compete at the Games in recent weeks and months.

For the Commonwealth Games Federation, the Queen’s Baton Relay marked the start of a very important month as we head into our 2021 General Assembly on Monday (11 October). For the second consecutive year, our event will be virtual, although we are increasingly hopefully that the 2022 edition of the CGF General Assembly will see us all together again in person, in Birmingham, on the eve of the Games.

The General Assembly is an important moment to bring our membership together to work collaboratively, helping to shape an exciting and prosperous future for the Games.

Like all good businesses, and indeed all sports and events, we know the importance of continuing to evolve and adapt for the future. The world is changing, and it is clear our event should evolve with it to stay modern and relevant to Commonwealth citizens.

For that reason, we have spent time and effort on developing a 2026/2030 Strategic Roadmap. The Roadmap involves consultation with partners and stakeholders, most notably our Commonwealth Games Associations and International Federations. We will look for support from our members to continue to move forward.

It is so important that we have a blueprint that signposts a bright future for Commonwealth Sport and our athletes, so watch this space in the weeks and months ahead!