"Did you see it, did you see it?" was the question of the day in China this morning. In Beijing, buzz filled the air as a secretly filmed video of a rehearsal for the highly anticipated Olympics opening ceremony circulated on the Internet.
SBS, the Korean television station, accomplished what many thought to be impossible.
Security surrounding plans for the opening ceremony has been unprecedented. SBS somehow slipped by three layers of high security to shoot the opening ceremonies' dress rehearsal. The ceremony has cost Beijing more than $300 million and features over 10,000 performers.
The video surfaced online last night, allowing millions to catch a sneak peek of what promises to be China's proudest debut.
Authorities acted quickly to control the damage. The video -- which features floating dancers, thousands of synchronized martial artists, and giant blue whales -- was yanked from YouTube by mid-morning on Thursday and entirely blocked in China.
The Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG) was furious, saying that the filming was unauthorized.
"We are disappointed and frustrated with the broadcast by SBS,'' Beijing Olympics committee spokesman Sun Weide said at a press conference today.
"This was against the rules…and we hope that everyone will wait until August 8 to see the opening ceremonies."
"It is disappointing that someone comes in there and literally steals one of the most exciting moments of the Games," said Kevan Gosper, an International Olympic Committee executive board member. "This is a great surprise and I have not heard of this happening before."
Whether SBS was allowed in the opening ceremonies rehearsal is unclear, and Sun did not indicate whether or how SBS would be punished for the recording.
"This matter is still under investigation,'' Sun said. "We are checking into the situation."
A representative from SBS told the Associated Press that nobody stopped them when they entered the stadium on Monday.
"Chinese officials let us in after we showed our ID cards and we shot the rehearsal," the anonymous SBS official said.
Chinese React Strongly
Online Chinese media reacted with strong disapproval. The popular Web portal Sohu.com ran a headline stating, "SBS Has Lost the Face of [embarrassed] Korea."
A poll on the same Web site revealed that 88.6 percent of participants felt that the recording "was inconsiderate and they should be punished accordingly."
In blogs and chatrooms, Chinese responses ranged from disbelief to rage to hope. The bulletin boards and blogs brimmed with dialogue on the secret video.
"If this is real, then the Koreans are just too disgraceful," said one user on the Qiluzutan discussion board.
Other Chinese had harsher words for the Korean television station.
"How did the Korean pigs get in? Someone should be held responsible to the people of China," a blogger posted on Sina.com.
"Korean people just love stealing things from China," vented another.
A calmer Chinese fan recalled his experience with the 2004 Olympics in Athens. "In today's media, divulging this type of secret seems normal. Last time at the Athens Olympics, I remember the secret of how the torch would be lit at the opening ceremonies was revealed, and our own CCTV reported on it."
A few bloggers encouraged their counterparts to move on by taking things into their own hands. "We can make sure that our opening ceremonies are perfect without a flaw if we stop spreading and downloading this video," a Sina.com blogger wrote.
"We should see the opening ceremonies in their entirety, so just hold on, for the sake of the world audience, for the pride of the country, for the hard work that all the workers have put in!"
A few more dress rehearsals are scheduled before the official kickoff on August 8. It's a good bet that security will reach all-time highs yet again.
The video can be viewed here.
Zhan Tao Yang contributed research to this story.