We took turns kneeling down behind the cubs and rubbing their bellies. They seemed perfectly content to be fondled by strangers, and emergency distraction with the sticks wasn't necessary.
Then the cubs were somehow persuaded that going for a walk was more fun than snoozing in the sun getting their bellies scratched, and we again took turns taking the lead position, walking with the cubs, while the rest of the group walked behind.
The cubs trotted along docilely, but at one point during my turn as leader, I started walking too fast and got in front of the cubs. The handlers quickly pulled me back. You don't want them to start thinking they're chasing you, which would automatically qualify you as prey, even though you were giving them such nice belly rubs only a little while ago.
Here's another nice closeup.