Little Lin Miaoke won the hearts of the Chinese people for her stirring rendition of “Ode to the Motherland” at Friday’s Opening Ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.
But there is growing anger at the revelation that the 9-year-old lip-synched the patriotic anthem because the real warbler, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi wasn’t thought to be pretty enough to appear.
The truth was revealed by Chen Qigang, musical director of the Opening Ceremony, in an interview with local media.
That news came as organizers revealed that the ceremony’s 29-footprint firework display was a digitally enhanced video superimposed onto live footage of the event.Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team, told the Beijing Times that it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence, which showed fire footprints walking across the city to the Bird’s Nest stadium.
He said the actual fireworks could be seen outside the stadium but it was logistically impossible to film them by helicopter, so the decision was made to re-create the effect digitally.
The ruse even extended to getting the weather forecast right to simulate the same smog as on the night and adding camera shake to simulate filming from a helicopter.
“Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks. But most of the audience thought it was filmed live, so that was mission accomplished,” said Gao.
Mission accomplished for Lin Miaoke too, who has been christened “the Smiling Angel” since making a huge splash in the domestic and international media for her perf.
There were plenty of stories of how Lin, who has been in TV commercials with thesp Zhao Wei and champion hurdler Liu Xiang, beat hundreds of other hopefuls to get the nod to sing.
Helmer Zhang Yimou, who orchestrated Friday’s proceedings, had words of praise for Lin’s performance, said her mother, Lin Zheping.
Chen said Lin Miaoke was chosen to appear onstage instead of Yang because she was better looking. It was a question of the national interest, he insisted.
Some commentators claimed both girls were heroes, but others were horrified at the message that the ruse sends to children.
“Since this happened, 7-year-old kids all think you should judge a person according to his or her image. They now think that being good looking is better than having a good voice. Shame!” said one comment on a website.
Yang, a Beijing first grader, said in an interview with China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, that she did not regret the fact that her voice, but not her face, was used for the ceremony. She said that she was happy that she was able to appear in the first place.
“Personal image can have an effect on a country, and a negative image is not in the national interest? What a joke! Why don’t they just cancel the program? Don’t relate everything to the national interest,” said one outraged netizen.
Another question of perception is visible on the websites listing the performance of different countries.
Chinese websites have China leading the medals table because it has won more golds than the U.S., even though the U.S. has won more medals overall.