LONDON – The venerable Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus here got a taste of Hollywood and the Summer Olympics mid-day Friday as Clive Owen interviewed Rwanda’s first-ever Olympic mountain biker Adrien Niyonshuti.
The crowded event was part of the London 2012 Festival, which has offered a range of arts and culture events surrounding the Summer Olympics, which come to an end here on Sunday.
Owen took to the stage and told the audience one of the reasons why he was there. “I’m a huge sports fan,” he said to a warm welcome applause.
And the actor explained another reason for his involvement. “If you’re wondering why I’m here … it’s because of Aegis Trust,” a U.K. charity looking to prevent another genocide in Rwanda,” Owen said. “I went there and had a look” and found the trust did great work. So, “I have become an ambassador of the charity,” he added.
Owen also acknowledged that he was “not a proper interviewer.” So, “you have to forgive me if I shuffle [these question cards],” he said to a round of laughs.
Earlier this summer, Owen took a break from filming Blood Ties with Mila Kunis to support the first-ever London-to-Paris fundraising bike ride for the Aegis Trust.
He introduced Niyonshuti by saying that there are many inspiring stories at the Olympics, but “Adrien’s story is one of the most extraordinary.”
The mountain biker said he watched the 2008 Beijing Summer Games from home after missing to qualify in another cycling competition, but was inspired to participate. “I thought I would like to be there,” he said about the Games, to chuckles from the audience.
For this year’s Olympics, he also failed to qualify in a couple of events, but then came in fourth in a mountain biking race and finally earned an Olympic spot. Two weeks ago, he carried his country’s flag during the opening ceremony.
Owen also told the audience that Niyonshuti is featured in a new documentary, T.C. Johnstone‘s Rising From Ashes, about the Rwandan national cycling team. “I saw the trailer, and Adrien is the star,” he said.
Said Niyonshuti: “I haven’t seen the film.” But he added that he hopes to see it after the Olympics.
Owen ended with a sports joke that sent home the audience with a laugh. The actor pointed out that he is known as a big fan of English soccer club Liverpool. He then said that Niyonshuti has broken new ground in Rwandan sports and done such great work – before turning to him to ask “how on earth can you support Manchester United?”