Glasgow 2014: Queen's Baton arrives in Manchester

Thousands turned out to greet the torch in Cheshire, as Sophie Long explains

The Queen's Baton Relay has returned to England for the first time since being handed over at Buckingham Palace.

The baton is travelling across the British Isles on its way to Glasgow for this summer's Commonwealth Games.

Squash champion Laura Massaro and Team England cyclists Matt Crampton and Jess Varnish were at the National Cycling Centre, Manchester for its arrival.

Ex-Manchester United star Bryan Robson carried the baton in a lap of his former club's ground, Old Trafford.

Valerie Zerbrokova, 17, from the British Cycling BMX Talent Team, was the first baton-bearer of the day.

Matthew Crampton, Valerie Zebrokova and Jess Varnish Baton-bearer Valerie Zebrokova with Matt Crampton and Jess Varnish

She was accompanied by Crampton and Varnish as she cycled with the baton and said the experience had been "amazing" and a "real honour".

Alan Boyle, 64, fixtures secretary of the Manchester Waconians Lacrosse Club, also had the privilege of holding the baton.

He said: "I was very excited, I just couldn't believe it."

Alan Boyle with the Reg Harris MBE statue Alan Boyle poses with the baton in front of the Reg Harris MBE statue at the National Cycling Centre

The baton was taken to Sportcity's wall of fame, near the indoor athletics arena marking the medal winners of 2002.

Forty-five-year-old John Gilmore carried the baton through raised squash rackets into the National Squash Centre before handing it to Laura Massaro, the World Squash Champion.

As she waited for her turn, Massaro said she reminisced about the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

Baton-bearer John Gilmore Raise your rackets to baton-bearer John Gilmore
Bryan Robson with the baton at Old Trafford Bryan Robson with the baton at his former Old Trafford club

She said it was "brilliant to be involved" in the baton relay for the Games in Glasgow and added she hoped to be in the team.

At the scene

Paul Burnell

It was just a normal day of sporting activity at SportCity Manchester - the sprawling complex in the regenerated Eastlands area.

Described as a lesson in how to deliver the Commonwealth Games legacy - the full slots at the different sport venues proved an eloquent testimony to this as the baton arrived.

Mercifully Manchester's default drizzle turned to bright sun to warm those awaiting the baton and the One Direction fans camped out waiting for the band's gig later.

Sports stars and volunteers stalwarts of local sport all got their chance to hold the baton as it made its first venture into England.

The true legacy, however, was not the sleek, toned athletes but those of all shapes and sizes and abilities taking part in sports ranging from squash to netball, cycling to zumba.

Adam Packer, chief executive of Commonwealth Game England, said Manchester was the natural choice to start the baton relay in England with the success of the 2002 games.

He said: "Looking at the Sportcity complex is an object lesson in how to deliver the right legacy."

After a tour of several venues used for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the baton then proceeded to Congleton in Cheshire.

Ten thousand people were at a festival of sport at Congleton Park in honour of the baton relay.

Among those who greeted the baton in Congleton was Ann Brightwell (nee Packer) who won the 800m gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

She is president and an active member of Team Congleton, which celebrates sport and encourages healthy living.

Her husband Robbie Brightwell took silver in the 4x400m relay at the same games.

Thousands cheered her on as she carried the baton through the park with Jane Whetnall, co-founder of the Cheshire Academy of Integrated Sports and Arts in Crewe which provides sporting opportunities for children and adults with learning difficulties.

She has volunteered for more than 20 years and was honoured with an MBE in the 2014 New Years Honours list for services to disability sport.

The baton was then taken by car from Congleton to Manchester United's home Old Trafford.

Children from Old Trafford and Manchester gave former captain Bryan Robson a guard of honour as he paraded the baton around the pitch.

The baton's last stop was Manchester Central Library where a civic reception was being held.

Baton route

Organisers said the baton would be carried by a selection of local heroes, nominated for their contributions to sports, coaching, education and the community.

The baton, which has been a fixture in the build up to the Commonwealth Games since the 1958 event in Cardiff, contains a sealed, secret message written by the Queen, which she placed inside the baton on 9 October at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Since then it has been taken to the Taj Mahal, been under water in the Seychelles and taken aboard one of the last Royal Mail ships in service. It has been held by world-class athletes including Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and been up the tallest building in Gold Coast, Australia - the next host city.

The baton starts its journey to Glasgow for this year's games when it crosses the border into Scotland on 14 June, for a 40-day tour of the country.

Will you be going to see the Queen's Baton Relay? The baton contains a hand-written message from the Queen to the Commonwealth. What message would you like to send Commonwealth Games' athletes?

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