Cessnock Council requests Hunter Valley be included on Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay route

MEMORIES: Sydney Olympics torchbearer Jan Williams with Cessnock councillor Jay Suvaal and mayor Bob Pynsent. Picture: Simone De Peak

MEMORIES: Sydney Olympics torchbearer Jan Williams with Cessnock councillor Jay Suvaal and mayor Bob Pynsent. Picture: Simone De Peak

The Sydney Olympic torch relay in the year 2000 was one of Cessnock’s biggest events in living memory.

But the city may miss out on the excitement when the Queen’s Baton Relay for the 2018 Commonwealth Games arrives next year.

The route was announced on March 5, with the baton relay set to touch down in Newcastle on February 3 next year.

But Cessnock City Council is calling for the relay to be diverted via the Hunter Valley vineyards.

At last Wednesday’s meeting, council unanimously supported an urgency motion put forward by councillor Jay Suvaal to write to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation and request that the Hunter Valley vineyards be included in the relay.

Cr Suvaal said he hopes the request is considered positively, as Cessnock is the perfect backdrop for the iconic relay.

“Our proximity combined with our naturally beautiful landscape makes us an ideal location for the Queen’s Baton Relay and we know the community would be incredibly excited to host the event,” he said.

He added that councillors have a responsibility to promote the city whenever they get the opportunity to do so.

Cessnock Mayor Bob Pynsent welcomed the motion and commended Cr Suvaal.

“This is a fantastic idea and a great opportunity for not only our residents, who would no doubt turn out in their thousands to support the event, but also to promote our wonderful region,” he said.

The 2000 Sydney Olympic Torch Relay stopped off overnight in Cessnock, attracting thousands of locals and visitors.

Cr Pynsent said it was a memorable night and great to see so many of the community involved, including local torch bearers.

Cessnock woman Jan Williams – who trialed for the Australian swimming team for the 1956 Olympics – was one of those torch bearers.

Mrs Williams, 79, recalled hundreds of people turning out on a cold August morning to watch the torch go by.

Fittingly, her leg started at the baths corner, finishing at Sylvester’s Bakery.

“It was a great honour and a thrill to run with the torch, representing Cessnock and all the kids I taught to swim,” she said.

Mrs Williams said she’d like to see the Queen’s Baton Relay diverted to Cessnock.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience to be involved in the Sydney Olympic Torch Relay and I would love to see the Queen’s Baton Relay give special community members that unique experience,” she said.

A Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) spokesperson said celebration communities for the Queen’s Baton Relay were decided by the GOLDOC in consultation with government partners including social, sporting, tourism and cultural representatives.

“Where possible, communities have been selected for being accessible to regional areas so that people may travel a reasonable distance to be involved,” the spokesperson said.

“For the Hunter Valley region, the closest celebration community is Newcastle, which the baton will visit on Saturday, February 3, and we encourage the people of the Hunter Valley region to come and be a part of the nearby celebrations.”

The baton relay will start in Canberra on January 25 and will travel via western and northern NSW, before making its way down the coast to Sydney.

It will stop in Forster on February 2 and Newcastle and the Central Coast the following day.

The baton will reach its final destination at Carrara Stadium for the Games’ opening ceremony on April 4, 2018.

Cessnock residents are encouraged to nominate local batonbearers at www.gc2018.com.

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