By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
BEIJING, Aug. 12 -- The ponytailed girl in a red dress who sang "Ode to the Motherland" during Friday's Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics was fit for the event, but apparently her voice was not.
A Chinese government official acknowledged Tuesday that the girl was actually lip-syncing at Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium; the real singer's face was deemed "not suitable."
In an interview with Beijing Radio, Chen Qigang, a musical director for the ceremony, said that organizers concluded during a rehearsal that the voice of 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, who appeared before a television audience of tens of millions, "must change." Yang Peiyi, the 7-year-old girl whose voice was judged superior, would actually sing the song.
"We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance," Chen said. He added: "The audience will understand that it's in the national interest."
"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," Chen continued. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."
The adorable Lin, who is in the third grade, has become an "instant star" since her performance, said the state-run China Daily newspaper. Her father said in the report that he learned only 15 minutes before the ceremony that his daughter would be performing. Lin was already a familiar face to Chinese sports fans -- she had been featured last year in a television ad with Liu Xiang, the hurdling champion who is a favorite for the gold medal.
In contrast, Yang, who is in the first grade, is described as more shy and modest. In her blog, Yang's tutor, Wang Liping, said that Yang "doesn't like to show off. She's easygoing." In a CCTV interview, Yang was asked how she felt about having her voice used for the opening ceremony. She responded that it was an honor.
The Chinese audience did not appreciate the last-minute switch.
In blog postings, some Chinese expressed anger about the decision, saying that the stunt would lead children to believe deception is acceptable and that it could ultimately hurt China's image.
Another newspaper, the Beijing Times, reported over the weekend that footage of some fireworks seen by television viewers during the opening ceremonies had been prerecorded. The actual fireworks, in the form of footprints "walking" toward the Bird's Nest, could be seen by spectators in Beijing. But Chinese officials, fearing that poor visibility would make it difficult to see the show, provided prerecorded footage to broadcasters "for convenience and theatrical effects -- as in many other big events," Wang Wei, executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, confirmed to reporters Tuesday.