EDITORIAL: Baton relay would unite the community

There’s nothing like sport to bring the community together.

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

Most Cessnock residents over the age of 25 would remember the Sydney Olympics torch relay coming to town in the year 2000, and the euphoria it created in the community.

Unfortunately, Cessnock has been omitted from the map of “celebration communities” for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games equivalent – the Queen’s Baton Relay, which kicked off in London last week.

It will arrive in Australia on Christmas Day for a 100-day journey through hundreds of towns.

Newcastle will be part of the action on February 3, but residents of Cessnock, Maitland and the Upper Hunter will have to travel to see the relay up close.

Cessnock Council has asked to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) to consider diverting the relay route to include a stop in the Hunter Valley vineyards.

It would be surprising if Cessnock is the only town pleading for the GOLDOC to change the route.

A Bathurst historian slammed the decision to leave his town off the map, considering the city’s place in British history.

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.

The committee has done its best to cover a fair slab of this wide brown land – trying to please everyone would be a logistical nightmare, not to mention an expensive exercise.

While a trip to Newcastle isn’t that far for those wishing to see the baton up close, it is worth questioning how the Hunter Valley – with its tourist appeal and strong sporting pedigree – has been left off the map.

Cessnock has a proud history of representation at the Commonwealth Games, with three athletes at the last games alone – gold medallist Daniel Repacholi, newly-crowned Cessnock City Sportsperson of the Year Blake Blackburn and clay target shooting legend Tom Turner.

The Hunter Valley vineyards are one of the top tourist destinations in Australia.

Meanwhile, Cessnock residents are being encouraged to nominate worthy people to carry the baton.

It would be great to see as many local people as we can involved with the relay, but even better if it were it right on our doorstep.