The Queen's baton relay begins

Queen Elizabeth launches the Queen's Baton Relay as part of the build up to the start of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. ST VIDEO: AMANDA WONG

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth launched the Queen's Baton Relay in London on Monday (March 13) as part of the build up to the start of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia's Gold Coast. 

At a ceremony on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, the Queen, in her role as Head of the Commonwealth, handed over the baton carrying a message to former Australian cyclist Anna Meares on the first leg of a 388-day, 230,000km journey to the Games site on the Gold Coast. 

Meares was joined by her great rival Britain's Victoria Pendleton and Australian singer Cody Simpson for a lap around the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace before a camper van drove Simpson and the baton on their way. 

The tradition, similar to the Olympic Torch Relay, sees the baton travel through all 70 Commonwealth nations and territories competing before being carried throughout Australia for the final 100 days ahead of the start of the Games on April 4, 2018. 

The baton, designed by Brisbane company Designworks, will he handed back to the Queen or her representative at the Games Opening Ceremony where the Queen's message will be read aloud to mark the official opening of the event.