Crowds have turned out in force to celebrate the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton’s visit to the North East.
It arrived in the region having travelled almost its entire 190,000km international journey across the Commonwealth ahead of the Glasgow 2014 games.
Events took place throughout the day in celebration, showcasing the fusion of sport and culture from across the 71 nations and territories within the Commonwealth.
The baton’s first stop was Gateshead, with youngsters helping take it to the Angel of the North to Gateshead International Stadium and then onto the Millennium Bridge.
It was welcomed by Great North Run founder Brendan Foster CBE, children from Oakfield Junior School, in Harlow Green, Gateshead, and leader of Gateshead Council Mick Henry.
The relay then moved the International Stadium and then onto the Millennium Bridge, where baton bearer Brendan handed it over to former British triple jumper Jonathan Edwards.
The former Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European champion said: “I’m incredibly proud to carry the baton in Newcastle and it’s very exciting that it’s the last stop before Scotland. Sport makes a big difference in our communities and to the children.”
Leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes joined in the celebrations at Gateshead Stadium.
He said: “We’re honoured to have Jonathan Edwards, a Commonwealth Games hero, carrying the baton for Newcastle. I’m delighted the city is playing a part in the Queens Baton Relay and I know we will give every bit of support for Team England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
At lunchtime, the baton arrived at Alnwick Castle. Events organised by Northumberland County Council and hosted by kind permission of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, culminate tonight in an evening celebration attended by 2,500 people.
Four Northumbrian sporting champions who had been chosen to be batonbearers helped schoolchildren in years 8 and 9 from across the county to become the potential future stars of Team England, with a day filled with sporting fun activities.
These included sports such as athletics and netball, represented at the games, as well as archery to reflect the history of the castle.
There was also a spot of quidditch, the wizardly game played by Harry Potter - with the castle appearing as Hogwarts in the first two films, and all participants grabbed a broomstick to fly for Team England.
In the evening, 2,500 members of the public, who had snapped up tickets within four hours, will filter into the castle for a celebration of the baton’s passing through Northumberland.
A presentation will see the baton passed from Commonwealth Games England to the Commonwealth Games Federation for its final journey through Scotland, leaving Alnwick at 7.15pm.
The Duchess said: “I am really pleased that Alnwick was selected as the very last international location to be visited by the Queen’s baton relay, following its extensive tour of the Commonwealth in the past few months.
“Today, we had 200 school children participating in various sporting activities, as well as learning about healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle.
“They will, I hope, benefit from being here as well as enjoying themselves, and be inspired to play sport, and perhaps in the future participate in the Commonwealth games themselves.”
Grant Davey, leader of the county council, said: “I feel particularly honoured that Northumberland is one of the few places selected to host the Queen’s baton relay within England and our event is particularly significant as it is the last one before the baton enters the host country of the Commonwealth Games.”