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Interview with Callum Airlie (GBR) on his Olympic Opening Ceremony Experience

On Friday 27 July, 420 sailor Callum Airlie from Great Britain was one of the seven young athletes lighting the Olympic Cauldron. The next day he was back in Austria for the 2012 420 World Championships.

A very special moment for Callum Airlie last Friday as he earned his own place in the Olympic history books by lighting the Olympic Cauldron along with six other young aspiring athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. The clock had turned midnight by the time the cauldron was lit, and Saturday also marked Callum’s 17th birthday, definitely one he is not going to forget.

From London, Callum flew straight back to Austria for the 2012 420 World Championships. His feet barely touched the ground, and his first mission on returning to the venue was to put his boat through equipment inspection, together with crew Joseph Butterworth.

None of the British 420 team, nor crew mate Butterworth had any idea why Callum had returned to London. Sworn to secrecy, Callum was restricted to telling close friends and his teammates that he was part of a young athlete project. With the 2012 Olympic Games promoting the theme “Inspire a Generation”, no-one thought any more of it. Callum’s mother was in on the secret, but even his father and brother had no idea, until Callum appeared on the television in front of them.

Commenting on how he felt , Callum gave the broadest grin, “It was just truly phenomenal really. I just couldn’t stop shaking my legs. I was tensing them, I couldn’t do anything, my nerves were incredible. But then, as soon as we started, as soon as Steve handed the torch over, it was absolutely fine, it felt so normal and so right. It was tremendous.”

Asked what preparation had taken place ahead of the Opening Ceremony, Callum explained, “We had quite a few dress rehearsals, but it changed every time as there were tweaks to get it just right. After we had our last rehearsal, we all thought ‘oh wow, that’s it, help!’ But it all worked out absolutely perfectly.”

Awestruck by the spectacle of the Opening Ceremony, he continued, “I was in the audience for the first half and really got caught up with the atmosphere of the whole thing which was truly amazing. But then when we walked out I sort of switched off from it all. It didn’t seem to affect me at all. It was only afterwards that I really noticed the noise, after coming back down from lighting the cauldron, and met with the Olympians. It was incredible.”

Callum was really impressed by the concept of former Olympians selecting young athletes to light the cauldron

“I thought it was fantastic. Obviously, I am going to say that because I was picked. But even if it had been anybody else, I would have been really up for it. It was such a great idea and whoever came up with it, hats off to them.”

The previous month, Callum had been selected to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay on 14 June in Gordon, Scotland, so he was not expecting another touch of the torch. “I thought that was my Olympics over. I was stunned and very happy with that in itself. To have this sprung upon me was amazing. Of course, it was very secretive, I got this phone call from Shirley Robertson inviting me to do this.”

On whether he had asked Shirley why she chose him, Callum said, “I didn’t want to ask. Shirley must have had her reasons. Just to be asked was such a compliment in itself, I was just astounded really.”

Having lit the cauldron the brief to walk back to their mentors didn’t go quite to plan, as Callum explained, “After lighting the cauldron we were so fired up we all ran, it was supposed to be a walk, back to our mentors, the Olympians who nominated us. We then chilled with them and all the previous medal holders. We had a fantastic meet and greet with them, and met so many amazing people, all with their own phenomenal stories. It was such an honour.”

“The Queen was on my list,” laughed Callum, responding to whether he had met Her Majesty the Queen, “but no I didn’t meet her.”

“Any doubts that I may have once had have completely vanished,” continued Callum speaking on how the experience has motivated his own Olympic dreams. “The atmosphere, meeting everyone, it has really got me going and I know that is what I want to do.”

Callum will continue to sail in the 420 for the rest of 2012 and 2013, with crew Joseph Butterworth. They are targeting selection for the 2013 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships, and then plan to move onto the 470. As Callum put it, “Olympics here we come!”

With the 2012 420 World Championships now the target, Callum explained their goals, “Being only 17 we are the big underdogs for the competition, so we are just going out there to give it our all and see how much experience we can get. This year was all just about qualifying for the teams and making it was a real achievement.”

Follow the action from the 2012 420 World Championships at: www.420sailing.org/worlds

Images: © Paul Szimak - derpaul.at


31/7/2012 13:51


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