Faking Their Way to a Perfect Olympics

Fake fireworks, fake singer, all in the name of "national interest."

BEIJING, August 12, 2008 — -- Eager to put on a perfect Olympics, Beijing has swept its streets of fake designer handbags, pirated DVDs and phony corporate logos.

That dedication to authenticity apparently does not extend to Olympics ceremonies.

In recent days the Chinese Olympics organizers have admitted to faking the "footprint" fireworks that dazzled television audiences around the world.

And today they conceded that the perfect little girl who stole the show while singing "Ode to the Motherland" wasn't singing at all. She was lip synching for another little girl who was deemed -- for the good of the country -- not cute enough for China's national image.

Fake Fireworks

Part of Friday night's jaw-dropping opening ceremonies revealed sweeping shots of the footprints in the skies over Beijing marching from Tiananmen Square north to the Bird's Nest.

Viewers were led to believe they were synchronized fireworks going off across the city.

Days later it was revealed that the images were computer generated and were only seen by those watching television. There were actual fireworks in Beijing but viewers didn't see them. Producers were fearful that they wouldn't be able to properly capture the images live on TV.

At a press conference today, Wang Wei, Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) vice-president and spokesman acknowledged that the fireworks may not have been live.

"On the day of the ceremony there were actual footprint fireworks from the south to the north of the city," Wang said to reporters. "However, because of poor visibility on the night, some previously recorded footage may have been used."

But he did not admit that they were digitally created.

However, the Beijing Times newspaper quoted the head of the ceremony's visual effects team, Gao Xiaolong, saying that a 55-second sequence of steps was digitally recreated because it was impossible to film by helicopter.

Fake Singer

Three days after the opening ceremony, the China Daily newspaper headline declared, "Nine-year-old Lin Miaoke becomes instant star with patriotic song."

Her perfect smile and pixie face accompanied by a perfect rendition of "Ode to the Motherland" made her a national sweetheart. Her moment in the spotlight was considered one of the most memorable parts of China's mesmerizing opening.

But a few days later, the musical director of the opening ceremony, Chen Qigang, told Beijing Radio that Lin, who was memorably clad in a red dress and white shoes, did not actually sing "Ode to the Motherland." Lin was lip-synching to another girl's voice.

Chen says that an alternative singer was chosen in a last-minute switch.

In the recordings that happened before the opening ceremonies, Chen said, "Lin Maoke's voice didn't quite meet our standard, the breadth and depth wasn't quite up to our standards. So, at last, we decided from a sound perspective to use Yang Peiyi."

But Chen Qigang also suggested, however, that Yang Peiyi wasn't cute enough.

"The performer was Lin Miaoke, but the sound was Yang Peiyi. The reason...is this: One was for the benefit of the country. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression, and Lin Miaoke meets our requirements in those aspects."

"However, from a sound perspective, our entire team unanimously agreed that Yang Peiyi fulfilled all of our requirements and more. She is the best."

But if Yang Peiyi was the best, why was she not on camera? A photo of Yang posted Tuesday on popular Web site Sina.com shows a smiling girl with bangs and crooked teeth.

National Interest

In his interview, Chen claimed that the last minute change-up was a "sad decision that we did not want to make."

In fact, the change happened at such a late notice that Chen said, "The voice that Lin Miaoke heard was actually Yang Peiyi's sound, but she herself may not have realized this."

"We've heard Lin Miaoke's recording," Chen said as he shook his head. "It was played live at a rehearsal. There were many different departments, especially leaders from the Politburo [the Central Communist Party leadership] who all gave us their opinions that it must change. So, we had no choice."

Chen believed that replacing Lin's voice with Yang's was fulfilling an obligation to society. "We have a responsibility to face the Chinese audience," Chen said.

"I think all of the listeners and audience should also understand this situation. This is for the benefit of the country, the national culture. This is the face, the image of the national music culture. Especially the entrance of our national flag, this is an extremely important, extremely serious matter."

"I think this situation is fair for Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi, it's fair for both of them. This is to say, [we] have the best image, and the best sound and we combined the two.

Blogosphere Reacts

Chinese bloggers generally accepted the lip synching and some even approved of it.

"Why was the original girl not on stage? Because she was having dental work done," justified a blogger on Sina.com.

Another blogger wrote, "Fake singing is not good but for the image and interests of the country, fake singing now and again is acceptable."

"On a sidenote, we should recognize that lip synching is in fact a form of art," the same blogger said sarcastically, in an attempt to provoke others.

Others found nothing wrong with the lip-synching.

"Lip synching has been happening for decades. Putting on the best performance we can is the most important. Plus two girls, not just one, got a chance to be famous. Their futures are very bright."

The Associated Press and ABC News' Cao Jun contributed to this story.