The University of Birmingham Dubai today welcomed the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay, coinciding with UK National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai on Thursday.

Student Baton bearers carried the Baton into the University’s iconic new campus to be welcomed by Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, in a ceremony that blended UK and Arabic culture.

The ceremony saw three Baton bearers carry the Baton onto the new smart campus in Academic City, accompanied by a camel – the traditional form of transport in the UAE. Acting as a Baton bearer himself, Lord Bilimoria walked the Baton into the campus building and placed it on a display plinth.

University of Birmingham Dubai Provost Professor David Sadler joined Lord Bilimoria in addressing an audience that included staff and students from the Dubai campus.

The Baton later departed for Expo 2020 Dubai aboard an electric vehicle, signifying the sustainable future of transport in the UAE and Birmingham 2022’s aim to create a carbon-neutral legacy.

Lord Bilimoria was joined by University of Birmingham Provost and Vice-Principal Professor, Tim Jones, and Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr. Ian Ward for speeches to guests.

Traditional Al Ayala Dancers greeted guests, including representatives of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Games Federation, Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Growth Company, celebrating the University’s civic-global connections.

Students and staff at the University of Birmingham Dubai welcome the Queen’s Baton to new iconic campus ahead of its visit to Expo 2020 Dubai

Speaking about the Baton’s arrival in Dubai, Lord Bilimoria commented: “It is pertinent that the Queen’s Baton Relay has arrived for UK National Day at Expo 2020 Dubai. The UK has strong links with the UAE and the University of Birmingham aligned with the country’s national objectives of nurturing talent and developing the industries of the future.

“We are a civic university with a global outlook and I am delighted to welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay to our iconic new Dubai campus ahead of the Baton’s visit to Expo 2020 Dubai for UK National Day.

“Sport is a unifying force and, as part of our commitment to supporting the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, we are playing the most significant role of any university in the Games’ history. Hockey and squash competitions will take place on our UK campus, where we will also host 3,000 elite athletes from around the world.

“Whether studying in Birmingham or Dubai, our students form one international academic community, and we believe they will be excited by the University’s involvement in such a major global sporting event.”

The Commonwealth Games take place in Birmingham from 28 July to 8 August 2022. The Queen’s Baton Relay events are underpinned by Commonwealth-wide celebrations for staff, students, and alumni and the #gamechangingbirmingham campaign.

Baton’s hi-tech ‘heart’ analyses atmospheric and environmental conditions throughout journey around the world

Before visiting UK National Day, the Baton travelled to 33Commonwealth nations and territories including Kenya, Nigeria, India, Singapore and Malaysia. After it visits Dubai 2020 Expo, the Baton will travel to Fiji and a further 35 countries, before arriving back in the UK in the summer, where it will visit Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

The Commonwealth Games further strengthen the University’s Commonwealth connections which include: a network of 20,000 Commonwealth alumni, 300 members of staff from across the Commonwealth. Nearly half of the University of Birmingham Dubai student population is from the Commonwealth.

Dame Louise Martin DBE commented: “The Queen’s Baton Relay symbolises hope, solidarity and collaboration across the Commonwealth, at a time when it is needed most. The visit to the University of Birmingham smart campus in Dubai provides a wonderful opportunity for the Baton to connect communities and celebrate Commonwealth cultures. It marks another exciting milestone for the Baton on its journey to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony on 28 July.”

University of Birmingham environmental scientists have helped create a hi-tech ‘heart’ for the Queen’s Baton, which contains atmospheric sensors with laser technology that analyses the environmental conditions wherever it is in the world.

Augmented Reality (AR) will be used to visualise data captured throughout the journey to invite conversations around air quality across the Commonwealth.

RTA electric vehicle carries Baton highlighting UAE’s and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games sustainability commitments

Data collected on the Baton’s journey will contribute to ongoing research projects being conducted across the globe by a team led by atmospheric scientist Professor Francis Pope who said: “We’re proud to provide scientific advice on creating the Baton’s ‘lungs’. Atmospheric data captured during the Baton’s global journey will be highly valuable in starting important conversations around air quality across the Commonwealth.”

The Baton also features LED lighting that displays dynamic performances in response to each Baton bearer’s heartbeat when held. Fitted with a 360-degree camera, the Baton records and transmits real-time imagery and digital information, allowing stories from its journey to be told, as well as GPS technology allowing for its location to be tracked.

The University of Birmingham Dubai’s selected student Baton bearers were:

  • Tanvi Malhotra – final year BSc Economics
  • Arjun Muralidharan – second year BSc Accounting & Finance