By Daniel Etchells

Vanimo residents hold the official Baton for the Pacific Games Relay ©Port Moresby 2015The official Baton of the Pacific Games Relay has begun its journey across the 22 provinces of Papua New Guinea with less than 100 days to go until the Opening Ceremony in Port Moresby.

The first 1,000 kilometres of the route saw the Baton flown from the host city to Vanimo Airport, where it was welcomed by Deputy Governor Paul Negai and his Provincial Government representatives.

Residents turned out in their numbers to follow the relay as the Baton was carried through the town by a number of the Games' sponsors.

Karen George, branch manager of official sponsor Bank South Pacific, stressed the importance of giving rural branches the chance to play their part in the Games.

The branch staff ran with their families, led by security manager John Mobiha, and were greeted by banners, including one created by Vanimo Primary School.

Runners from the school and the Vanimo General Hospital took the Baton down the beach road and along the coast. 

It was then welcomed by the Vanimo Barracks, where soldiers let off dramatic purple smoke grenades, before being passed over to provincial Police Commander Robin Gesa and a selection of his troops for the final leg.

The baton's journey will culminate at the Pacific Games Opening Ceremony on July 4 ©Port Moresby 2015The Baton's journey will culminate at the Pacific Games Opening Ceremony on July 4
©Port Moresby 2015

The next stop for the baton team was Telefomin, followed by Nuka where they were greeted by thousands of people with a spectacular sing-sing ceremony. 

The first Baton carrier through the mountains and valleys on the eight kilometres Nuka route was village chief Andrew Kamboni, a war veteran proudly carrying his medals. 

From there, the Baton headed across the Sepik plains to the Aitape-Lumi District, home of the world famous Tenkile Wildlife Conservation Park.

Around 3,000 athletes from 21 nations are due to compete across 28 different sports at the two-week long 2015 Games, which will offer competitors the chance to earn Olympic qualification for Rio 2016.

The baton's journey is scheduled to culminate at the Opening Ceremony on July 4.

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