Let the Delhi Games begin
The formal countdown to next year's Delhi Commonwealth Games began on Thursday with the ceremonial Queen's Baton Relay that saw Queen Elizabeth II handing over the glittering baton to India's President Pratibha Patil in London.
Before the Queen placed her message on the baton, in her role as head of the Commonwealth, and passed it on Patil to mark the beginning of a year-long relay, a cultural show in sync with India's rich tradition was organised at the majestic Buckingham Palace.
The message was engraved on a miniature 18-carat gold leaf that is symbolic of the ancient Indian palm leaf patras.
It is for the first time that a Head of a State attended the traditional ceremony and received the baton from the Queen.
Commonwealth Games Federation Michael Fennell presented the baton to the Queen.
President Patil passed on the baton to India's Sports Minister M S Gill, who handed it over to Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi.
Image: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II hands over the baton to President of India Pratibha Patil
India's rich tradition on show
From Kalmadi the baton reached the hands of first baton bearer Abhinav Bindra, India's only Olympic gold medallist.
With Indian music playing in the background air rifle shooter Bindra began the relay run and handed over the baton to legendary middle-distance runner Lord Sebastian Coe, waiting just outside gates of the Palace.
Coe is also chairman of the Organising Committee of the 2012 London Olympics.
Image: A dancer performs during the launch of the baton relay
Baton on run through 70 Commonwealth countries
After going through 70 Commonwealth countries, covering 170,000km over 240 days, the baton will arrive in India from the Wagah Border with just 100 days left for the start of the Games.
It will travel to all State capitals, a number of other towns and villages, exhorting all of India to be a part of the celebration.
The baton will finally enter Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in New Delhi on October 3 for the opening ceremony.
Earlier, dance, dresses and drums from different parts of India virtually turned the majestic Victoria Memorial into a mini-India at the start of Relay.
Image: Dancers pose for photographs outside Buckingham Palace
The baton passed through many hands
The baton passed through the hands of legendary Indian cricketer Kapil Dev, the country's most successful female tennis player Sania Mirza, 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, Olympic bronze medal winners boxer Vijender Singh and wrestler Sushil Kumar and England's first Sikh cricketer Monty Panesar among other Indian sports personalities.
A bunch of British students joined the celebrations chanting the Sanskrit verses from ancient Rig Veda.
As the sanskrit prayers speaking of unity and humanity of these students from St James school reverberated in the forecourt of the Buckingham Palace, the crowd joined in with encouraging cheers and claps for their effort.
Students provided perfect icing on the function by performing Indian classical dance forms Bharatnatyam, Kuchupudi and folk dances like Bhangra and Dandia in front of Queen Elizabeth and President Pratibha Patil.
Image: Athletes stand in the grounds of Buckingham Palace during the launch of the 2010 Commonwealth Games
The baton will reach Delhi on October 3, 2010
The baton will cover over 190,000 km across Commonwealth countries over 340 days and will come to India on June 25. It will also be one of the longest relays in the history of the Commonwealth Games.
It will reach Delhi on October 3, 2010, when the Queen's words will be read aloud at the opening ceremony.
The Baton Relay is one of the great traditions of the Commonwealth Games.
The Queen's Baton Relay, similar to the Olympic Torch Relay, is a relay around the world held prior to the beginning of the Commonwealth Games.
The Relay traditionally begins at Buckingham Palace in London as a part of the city's Commonwealth Day festivities. The Queen entrusts the baton to the first relay runner.
At the Opening Ceremony of the Games, the final relay runner hands the baton back to the Queen or her representative, who reads the message aloud to officially open the Games.
Image: Athletes stand outside Buckingham Palace during the launch of the 2010 CW Games baton relay