Dermot O'Leary has criticised the decision to redesign Celebrity Big Brother after The Race row that blighted last year's show.

Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack launches on Channel 4 tonight after 2007's series caused a diplomatic incident between Britain and India.

Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty allegedly received racial abuse as part of bullying by other housemates including Jade Goody, prompting widespread anger across India.

But host O'Leary - presiding over the series for the last time - told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat it was "a mistake" to redesign the show.

"I still think it's a good show and I don't think anyone should apologise for what happened last year," he said.

"It conjured up debate and asked serious questions."

Celebrity Hijack is set to feature celebrities playing with the minds of 12 of Britain's brightest talents by setting them tasks.

Little Britain's Matt Lucas will be the first star to take the reins while Jimmy Carr, Joan Rivers, Brian Sewell and Ian Wright are also to perform hijacking duties once the show transfers to E4 for the remainder of its run.

And the 12 "young and gifted" housemates have now been named, all competing for a £50,000 prize.

Brother and sister circus performers Emilia and Victor Arata are involved, as well as Olympic boxing hopeful Anthony Ogogo, who won gold at the 2004 Junior Olympics.

Nineteen-year-old internet entrepreneur Liam Young began his career by selling web space aged only eight while 21-year-old beauty queen Jade Eden is a Mensa member.

Mobo-nominated singer/songwriter Nathan Fagan-Gale and Oxford-educated conceptual artist Amy Jackson will be up against fashion designer Jay Wilson and professional dancer Latoya Satnarine.

And other contestants include 19-year-old violinist Calista Robertson, car racing champion Jeremy Metcalfe and 20-year-old John Loughton, the chairman of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

03/01/2008 13:23:16