Gagged Olympic BMX riders finally speak out

BMXers Ben Manuel and James Hitchcox from Upton rehearsed for months to be a part of the Olympic opening ceremony but nine days before got a call telling them they were being cut out to save 26 minutes, wasting thousands of pounds and their time and effort.Pictured Ben (top) and James
BMXers Ben Manuel and James Hitchcox from Upton rehearsed for months to be a part of the Olympic opening ceremony but nine days before got a call telling them they were being cut out to save 26 minutes, wasting thousands of pounds and their time and effort.Pictured Ben (top) and James

THEY were supposed to be flying high demonstrating their BMX skills to millions watching the Olympic opening ceremony.

But Ben Manuel, 30, and James Hitchcox, 33, were told their act was being axed just days before the big event.

Despite being made to sign a non-disclosure agreement by the organisers, they have spoken out at their disappointment.

Mr Manuel, of Upton, said: “We signed this agreement saying we wouldn’t talk about what happened but now we think people should know.”

Mr Manuel and Mr Hitchcox, from South Kirkby, rehearsed for two months for the cycling part in the ceremony that was set to involve BMX free styling and fire bikes.

They travelled to a secure location in Dagenham for weekly rehearsals, and rehearsed twice in the Olympic stadium under the belief they would ride in front of thousands of people in the historical event directed by Danny Boyle.

But their dreams of showing their skills while the Arctic Monkeys performed The Beetles classic Come Together were scuppered when they received a call nine days before the event.

They were told they were being cut from the routine to save 26 minutes.

Mr Manuel, who runs the indoor Upton Skate Park on Waggon Lane, said: “We were really excited to perform in front of 80,000 people so we were pretty gutted.

“But it was all that time and effort we put in that was the biggest downfall because we worked really hard and it was all for nothing.

The two bikers didn’t receive any reimbursements for wasted travel expenses, but they were paid in full for their participation along with the many other riders that were cut from the routine.

Mr Manuel said: “They still paid us all even though we didn’t participate, and from what I’ve worked out that alone would have cost about £700,000 before the costs of everything else.

“I think it was a stupid decision, they wasted all that money just to save 26 minutes when they could have just brought it forward.”

A spokesman for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), said: “It’s perfectly natural in the production of any production, whether it be theatre, film or ceremonies, to trim sections during rehearsals to make them as tight as possible.

“Everyone was disappointed that we had to trim this section out of the show – it was a very tough decision, and no-one enjoyed making it.

“However, these decisions were taken by a team of people, including the Ceremony Directors.

“To put this in some type of context we unfortunately had to cancel 145 professional performers from a cast of 7500. Everyone worked flat out to deliver a spectacular show.”