British High Commissioner's speech at the Queen's Baton Relay reception in Tanzania

HE Sarah Cooke hosts a reception at her Residence in celebration of the Queen's Baton coming to Tanzania.

HE Sarah Cooke giving a speech

Thank you to the Muda Dancers, That was a lovely performance to the charity Commonwealth song ‘Sing’ by British singer Gary Barlow and the Commonwealth Band.

Gary and his team travelled across the Commonwealth to bring together so many beautiful voices.Money raised from the song went to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.We asked Muda to do a dance representing the values of the Commonwealth: tolerance, inclusivity and peace.Thank you.

And now I would like to welcome everyone to this evening’s reception. Guest of Honour, the Minister of Information, Youth, Culture, Sports and Arts, Dr. Harrison Mwakyembe,President and members of Tanzania’s Olympic Committee,Ministry representatives,my colleague, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya and Tanzania, Mr. John Feakes and other High Commissioners from the Commonwealth resident in Tanzania, all in the Queen’s Baton Relay Team, participating organisations,schools, national sports associations and athletes, Sponsors of the Tanzania leg of the Queen’s Baton Relay, SBC Tanzania, Superdoll, CMC, Unilever, Azam Media House, NSSF and Ultimate Security for kindly providing our security tonight,invited guests.Good evening and karibuni sana.

We are here today in celebration of the Queen’s Baton coming to Tanzania.It has travelled to 7 other African countries already and will travel through a total of 71 Commonwealth countries and territories before it ends its journey in Australia for the 21st Commonwealth Games in a year’s time.

This is the sixth time that the baton has come to Tanzania.I am incredibly proud to have been part of its journey this time through this fantastic country.The team and I are just back from Arusha where we were able to share the Baton with children and athletes in that part of Tanzania.

The Queen’s Baton is a powerful symbol of the unity and diversity of the 52 Commonwealth nations.It carries a special message from the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The message will be read out on completion of the baton’s epic journey at the Commonwealth games in Australia’s Gold Coast in April, 2018. No one knows what the message says until then.

The Queen’s Baton Relay is one of the greatest traditions of the Commonwealth Games. It covers a 190,000 km journey around the Commonwealth passing through the hands of thousands of Commonwealth citizens. It’s a wonderful curtain raiser to the Commonwealth Games.

Since the start of the Commonwealth Games back in 1930 Tanzania has competed eleven times and brought home 6 gold medals.I am absolutely delighted to have some of the celebrated medal winners here with us tonight! I would particularly like to highlight Tanzania’s record breaking Gold medalist Filbert Bayi, the Secretary General of the Tanzania Olympic Committee. He won Tanzania’s first gold medal in 1974 in the 1500m race in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Another gold winner is Gidamis Shihanga who brought home 2 gold medals, one in 1978 and another in 1982.And most recently, in 2006 during the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Samson Ramadhani won a gold medal in the men’s marathon.

Other former Tanzanian athletes here with us tonight include:Zakaria Malekwa, Zakaria Barie, Fabiano Joseph, Gewey Suja, Simon Mrashani, John Yuda, Samson,Ramadhani, and Francis Robert Naasi.

Gentlemen, we are thrilled to have you here with us this evening! What fantastic achievements you have all made, and what pride you have brought your country!

I’m sure you will all join me in congratulating and saluting their epic achievements. Hongera sana! And I also want to quickly mention Tanzanian marathon runner Alphonce Felix Simbu. He sadly can’t be with us tonight as he is preparing for this year’s London Marathon on 23 April. We will all be cheering him on!

Sport is a truly unifying and galvanizing force. So this year’s Commonwealth theme of a peace-building Commonwealth particularly resonates for me at this time.

My husband Calum and I were lucky enough to attend the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.We welcomed the teams at Opening Ceremony and saw the athletes in action in Hampden Stadium.

What resonated particularly with me was that the Commonwealth Games truly brings together able-bodied and Paralympic sport. It was wonderful to be able to see the Paralympic shot-putters competing in the stadium at the same time as the able-bodied sprinters. It was a true demonstration of the Commonwealth value of inclusivity.

Now it is Australia’s turn and I am delighted to both metaphorically and literally ‘hand the baton over’ to my colleague Ambassador John Feakes! I’m sure the Gold Coast Games will be as amazing and fun as Glasgow’s! And, given the sporting rivalry between our 2 countries, let the best team come top of the medal table!

Thank you everyone for being here tonight.

Published 12 April 2017