Chinese officials defended their decision to pass off the voice of a 7-year-old songbird as that of another girl at the Olympic opening ceremony, calling it a simple casting choice. Critics said it was a step too far in China's obsession with the perfect Olympic Games.
Beijing organizers of the games faced tough criticism Wednesday after a whistleblower revealed that the 9-year-old who performed a song during the spectacular opening ceremony was lip-synching to another girl's vocal track.
Yang Peiyi, a 7-year-old with bright eyes and a smile made crooked by the stubs of her first grown-up teeth, was heard by an audience estimated in the billions during Friday night's ceremony, singing "Ode to the Motherland."
But they never saw her face.
Organizers passed the song off as being sung by Lin Miaoke, another perky schoolgirl who donned a sparkly red dress and soared on wires above the 91,000-strong crowd at the Bird's Nest stadium.
Beijing officials on Wednesday defended the decision to use both girls, saying the artistic directors could cast whoever they saw fit. And they were unapologetic about keeping the lip-synch a secret.
"There were a number of candidates to sing that song and at the end of the day the artistic directors picked the best voice and the best performer," Beijing organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide said.
Wang Wei, executive vice president of the organizing committee, said the job of the ceremony's directors was "to achieve the most theatrical effect."
"I don't see there is anything wrong with it if everybody concerned agrees," he said.
But the world's press ridiculed the move on front pages from Romania to Australia.
"The counterfeit Games: designed to look good from every angle," said a headline in The Times of London. The Daily Telegraph urged organizers of the 2012 London Games to "bring some sanity and proportion back to both the opening ceremony and the games themselves."
In Spain, one newspaper called it "Olympic karaoke." A commentator for The Age newspaper in Australia called it "the great Beijing lip-synch switcheroo" and news on the incident was headlined "China's wrong child policy." The Romanian daily 7Plus ran this on its front page: "Hoax! Made in China."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jill Rosen said the switch was hardly the first case of lip-synching, but was "possibly the cruelest."
New York Magazine called on record executives to give Peiyi a record deal, saying "She's 7! She has buckteeth! She is adorable!"
The Chinese leadership consider the Beijing Olympics a matter of national prestige and the opening extravaganza, attended by a host of leaders including President Bush, was intended to wow the world."
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