Gladiators: Original cast question BBC reboot given tighter health and safety rules

Stars of the original Gladiators have questioned what the show’s return will look like, warning tougher health and safety regulations do “take away that excitement”.

The popular entertainment sports show is to return on the BBC for an 11-episode series next year, featuring new games alongside classic challenges like fan favourite The Eliminator – the gruelling obstacle course.

Original Gladiators Kim Betts and Sharron Davies, who were known to fans as Lightning and Amazon, appeared on BBC Breakfast on Friday to talk about the revival.

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Davies, 59, said: “The only thing I think is going to be really testing is health and safety.

Original Gladiator Kim Betts appearing on on BBC Breakfast to talk about the revival of Gladiators. Picture: BBC/PA Wire
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“I think going forward that’s the thing which will be so very different from way back then.”

Betts, 50, shared Davies’s concerns, revealing changes were being made due to health and safety rules even when the original show was running.

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“[There were] huge changes,” she said. “When we first started, things like the 6ft free-fall we used to do without a harness, just fall on to a crash mat.

“Brilliant if you’re not scared of heights and are aware of rotational falls, but as health and safety came on throughout the years you’ve then got to be attached to a harness.

“It takes away that element of fear and excitement for the viewers back home.

“I know some people got seriously injured on that … so I completely understand it.

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"But when you’re trying to invent an exciting, thrilling game and then health and safety step in, which they did on numerous events, it all has to be changed.

“It does take away that element of excitement.”

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The show will air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, returning with a new generation of “superhumans” who will compete against contestants in the “ultimate test of speed and strength”, the BBC said.

Davies, a former Olympic swimmer, recalled the “good memories, but tough memories” as she described injuring herself shortly after starting on the show.

“I was kind of avoiding doing it for a while because I saw how much everybody got injured,” she said.

“Then the first year I did it I went and cracked my ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] on my knee.

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“So, good memories, but tough memories because we used to record two or three shows in a day and we would start really early in the morning and often finish at ten o’clock at night.”

At its peak, Gladiators – broadcast from 1992 to 2000 – drew huge audiences to its Saturday evening ITV slot as the famous call of “Contenders, ready? Gladiators, ready?” echoed across TV screens.

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The likes of Trojan, Jet, Nightshade and Hunter became household names and the format – which originated in the US – travelled to Australia, South Africa, Russia, Finland, Germany, Nigeria, Denmark and Sweden.

Betts, a former British gymnast and the longest-serving Gladiator, said she had not been asked to be part of the show’s reboot.

She said: “I haven’t been asked. I know a lot of the public are wanting some of the old ones involved.”

Asked if she would like to be involved, Betts added: “That is a big question. I mean, I’m 50 and I’m one of the younger gladiators … do people want to see a 50-year-old running around in a bikini?

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“But it would be lovely to take part and try and help it be as successful as what it was.”

Filming of Gladiators will take place at the Utilita Arena Sheffield next year.

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