If you were one of the estimated 1 billion people around the world who tuned in to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on Friday night, there were several moments where you probably said, "Wow! No way!" As it turns out, you had reason to be skeptical about some of the amazing visual and vocal feats of wonder that took place.
In fact, two of the ceremonies' most indelible moments — the image of adorably pigtailed 9-year-old schoolgirl Lin Miaoke singing "Ode to the Motherland" and an impossible-looking volley of fireworks in the shape of feet stomping toward the stadium — were actually faked.
According to The New York Times, Miaoke's father was told 15 minutes before the ceremonies began that his daughter would be performing one of the signature roles in the pageant, but once he watched her on television he noticed that "the voice was a little different from hers." He told the paper on Tuesday (August 12) that he assumed the difference "might be caused by the acoustics."
As it turns out, the ceremony's production team was put under intense pressure by the ruling Communist Party to find what the paper called the "perfect face and voice" for the performance, and they ended up using two girls instead of one. Apparently, third-grader Miaoke was judged to be cute enough but "not suitable" as a singer, while another girl, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi had a good voice but was not considered as attractive due to her crooked teeth.
What viewers heard and saw was Miaoke lip-synching to Peiyi's vocals, and, according to the Times, it's unclear if Miaoke even knew her voice was being overdubbed. It's not unusual for even major recording artists to sing along to a pre-recorded track or lip-synch all together at events like the Super Bowl, where acoustics and conditions might sometimes make live performance difficult, but singing along to another person's vocals is highly unusual.
The general music designer of the opening ceremonies, Chen Qigang, who owned up to the bait and switch during a radio interview on Sunday, said it was done "for the national interest. ... The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression." The song coincided with the pivotal arrival of the Chinese national flag in the stadium, which is why Qigang said a member of the Communist Party's powerful Politburo committee demanded a change during rehearsals.
On Monday, Peiyi appeared on China Central Television and said, "I'm OK with it. ... My voice was used in the performance. I think that's enough."
After Friday's extravaganza, filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who oversaw the production, had high praise for Miaoke's singing and said her section of the program was among the most satisfying. With the opening ceremony viewed as a sort of coming-out party for China, intense pressure was put on Yimou to make the evening stand out as one of the most iconic in Olympic history. That might explain why another stunning image from the event was also doctored.
The Miaoke scandal came on the heels of the revelation that dazzling shots seemingly showing fireworks in the shape of 29 footsteps — to signify the 29th Olympiad — advancing toward the National Stadium during Friday night's event were actually computer-generated graphics.
Organizers explained that the fireworks did take place in real time but that CGI footage was painstakingly created over the course of a year to simulate the effect, due to fears of shooting it live from a helicopter and concerns about poor visibility. Producers went so far as to recreate a "shaky camera" effect to heighten the believability of the illusion.
NBC Sports responded to the report, stating that viewers were informed of the manipulation through on-air comments made by co-hosts Matt Lauer and Bob Costas, who called it a "cinematic device" that is "actually almost animation."