Callum Airlie had to keep mum about Olympic ceremony starring role

Callum Airlie
Callum Airlie

The Berwickshire teenager who helped to light the Olympic flame on his 17th birthday has revealed he was banned from telling most of his own family about his secret role.

Callum Airlie of Westruther is one of seven talented young athletes who lit the Olympic cauldron to close the breathtaking opening ceremony on Friday.

His moment of glory, watched by an estimated billion people worldwide, marked the perfect end to his 17th birthday.

But sailing star Callum said he almost turned down the invitation to attend the London opening because organisers were so vague about why he had been invited. He found about his role early last week – and was only allowed to tell his mother, as she had to accompany him down because he is under 18.

The Earlston High School pupil said: “I found out I’d be doing it just six days before. The organisers asked me to come to London, but it was all very secretive. I had no idea what it was for, at first.”

All seven youngsters had been nominated by previous British Olympic medal winners, and Callum had been selected by fellow Scot and sailor Shirley Robertson, a double Olympic gold medallist.

The teenager said: “We got a call from Shirley. A double gold medallist phoning my dad was quite a big thing. It set alarm bells ringing, and although she didn’t say why I was invited to the opening, she was adamant I should not miss this.

“The whole thing was part of what they called ‘Save the Surprise’. Only my mum knew.

“She couldn’t tell Dad,
though, and my brothers didn’t have a clue. It was a huge secret to keep. In the end, I chose not to phone people. I didn’t trust myself not to say anything.

“I just sent everybody a text telling them they should definitely watch it and that they probably wouldn’t miss me.”

Mystery had surrounded who would perform the ceremonial event and sports legends including Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Roger Bannister and Daley Thompson had all been among the favourites for the prestigious role.

Organisers were so determined to keep the identity secret that Callum decided not to tell his dad Iain and two older brothers Drew and Ewan - only his mum Julie knew about it.

It was the second time the teenager had performed an Olympic role as he had previously carried the Olympic torch when it passed through his Berwickshire village on June 14.

Callum, who has been sailing since the age of four, is already looking forward to taking part in another opening ceremony again in the future – as an Olympian in Rio de Janerio in 2016.