LONDON: Scottish cycling star Chris Hoy carried the Commonwealth Games baton to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday for the start of a relay that will culminate with the opening ceremony of next year's edition in Glasgow.
The now-retired rider, who won six Olympic gold medals and a host of world and Commonwealth titles, found himself centre stage again as he took part in an event designed to boost the Games.
Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Commonwealth, has written a message to athletes that will be placed inside the baton before it starts a 248-day journey around 70 nations and territories.
The text of the message will remain secret until the Queen reads it at the opening ceremony at Glasgow's Celtic Park on July 23.
Scottish sprint legend Allan Wells, the 100 metres champion at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, was the first athlete to receive the baton from the Queen and start it on its journey.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said home support would be essential.
"As you saw with the (London) Olympics last year, you'll have the same thing in Scotland next year," he told BBC TV.
Six weeks after the Games, Scotland will hold a referendum on whether to break away from the United Kingdom and become an independent nation.
"The start of the Queen's Baton Relay, with two of Scotland's greatest-ever athletes, is another step towards what will be a momentous year for Scotland," the pro-independence Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, said.
David Grevemberg, chief executive of Glasgow 2014, said the start of the relay was "a fantastic moment" for the organisers.
Earlier, asked if Usain Bolt would compete at Glasgow 2014, Grevemberg told BBC radio the Games organisers were negotiating with Jamaica in a bid to persuade the world's fastest man to take part.
Bolt, with the notable exception of last year's London Olympics where he defended both his 100m and 200m titles, has often been reluctant to run in Britain for tax reasons.
The baton is first set to travel to India later this week despite reports suggesting the country would be unable to host it due to the Hindu festival of Dussehra.
However, part of the route is being changed after west African country Gambia recently quit the Commonwealth, saying it will "never be a member of any neo-colonial institution". AFP
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