BATHURST being left off the route for the Commonwealth Games baton relay is an insult that ignores the city’s place in British history, according to local historian Dr Robin McLachlan.
But those behind the final route say Australia’s size makes it impossible for the baton to visit all the country’s major cities and Bathurstians will be able to see it when it comes to nearby Orange.
The route for what is being called the Queen’s Baton Relay was revealed earlier this month, showing the baton will pass through Forbes, Parkes, Orange, Wellington and Dubbo on January 29 and 30 next year, but will not travel a little further east to Bathurst.
Dr McLachlan said the Commonwealth Games started in 1930 as the British Empire Games, becoming the British Empire and Commonwealth Games and the British Commonwealth Games before settling on the current name.
He said the sporting event was tied up with “the notion of Britain having a global empire”.
And Bathurst, Dr McLachlan said, has a special place in the history of that empire.
“Established as a government settlement in 1815 by Governor Macquarie, it was the first inland European colonial settlement in Australia,” he said.
It was not a certainty that Australia’s vast interior would be settled by just the one colonial power, Dr McLachlan said, so the Bathurst outpost was the beginning of that interior being claimed by the British.
The gold rush, which did much to lead to the settlement of the interior, began not far from Bathurst, he said.
“And there were more British expeditions of the interior that started from Bathurst than any other place in Australia,” he said.
Queen Elizabeth II had visited Bathurst twice, he said.
“If we are of sufficient merit for two royal visits by our monarch, then surely we are worthy of a passing visit by Her Majesty's torch.”
A Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) spokesperson said the route for the baton relay had been decided by GOLDOC “in consultation with government partners including social, sporting, tourism and cultural representatives”.
“Given Australia’s vast geography, time, budgetary and accessibility considerations, it is not logistically possible for the baton to reach every community across the country,” the spokesperson said.
“However, where possible, communities have been selected for being accessible to regional areas so that people may travel a reasonable distance to be involved.
“For Bathurst, the closest celebration community is Orange, which the baton will visit on Tuesday, January 30, and we encourage the people of Bathurst to come and be a part of the nearby celebrations.”
The baton relay’s Australian journey will start in Canberra in January 2018 and end in the Gold Coast in April 2018.