It was the opportunity of a lifetime for 75 British children… or so they thought.
They had been told that they had a chance to dance in front of a worldwide audience of billions at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games.
But now the heartbroken children were trying to come to terms with the realisation that they may have been victims of an alleged elaborate con.
The children, aged between nine and nineteen, got through gruelling auditions to join what they thought was an official dance troupe for the Games.
They rehearsed for two hours a week for four months. Their parents paid £60 for costumes and a coach to take them to London’s Olympic stadium. They excitedly told friends and family to look out for them on TV on the big day.
But on Friday, they were told the dream was over… and that police had been called in to investigate a suspected scam.
Their teacher, former English National Ballet dancer Stephen Moonesamy, 35, has been arrested and charged with fraud.
A spokesman for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said preparations for the closing ceremony were now too far advanced to include the disappointed young performers.
He added: “We are appalled that these young people appear to have been misled in such a way. The matter is in the hands of the police.”
Mother Claire Burlin told how her nine-year-old daughter Bethany sobbed for hours when she heard the news.
“She wanted to know if it was because she wasn’t good enough,” said Claire, from Kettering, Northants. “I think nine is just too young to learn such a hard lesson in life. It is just so cruel.”
The youngsters belong to three dance schools which were contacted in February and asked to audition.
A website apparently linked to the event even appeared to feature a good-luck message from Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
“It just all looked so legitimate,” said Mrs Burlin. “We never thought for a second that this would happen. The Olympics will be ruined for them now.”
Moonesamy, 35, of Northampton, appeared at Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court charged with four counts of fraud and false representation. He was remanded in custody until Friday.
A 31-year-old woman arrested as part of the investigation was released on bail pending further inquiries.