The little girl who shot to fame after singing at the Olympic opening ceremony was miming and only put on stage because the real singer was considered ugly, the show's musical director said.
Lin Miaoke, 9, the little Chinese girl in the red dress who captured the world's hearts when she sang solo as the Chinese national flag entered the Bird's Nest Stadium during the Olympic Opening Ceremony, is the hottest child star on the planet right now.
But it turns out that the voice the world heard singing so sweetly "I Sing for My Motherland" was not Lin's - but a pre-recording of another child, Yang Peiyi, who was dropped from the opening ceremony at the last minute in the ''national interest".
The General Music Designer of the opening ceremony, Chen Qigang, revealed the switch in an interview on Beijing Radio Sunday night.
Mr Chen said he owed the nation an explanation and wanted to ensure that Yang Peiyi's contribution was also recognised.
Mr Chen said their original choice for the lead was a 10-year-old girl, who was used throughout the rehearsals for Friday's blockbuster opening extravaganza. But she was dumped after director Zhang Yimou deemed her "a little too old".
They then shortlisted a group of younger girls including Lin Maoke and Yang Peiyi, 7. After recording them Mr Chen's team unanimously decided that Yang Peiyi's voice was "flawless" and she would sing the lead.
But at the final rehearsals a member of China's ruling nine-man Politburo made his dissatisfaction with Yang Peiyi clear. There were rumours at the time of the rehearsals that unspecified, last minute changes had been ordered by the senior leadership.
"This was last minute, a choice we had to make. We had been through several inspections; they were all very strict. When we rehearsed at the spot, there were spectators from various divisions, especially a leader from the Politburo, who gave us his opinion: It must change,'' Mr Chen said.
"The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression.
Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects. But in the aspect of voice, Yang Peiyi is flawless, in each member of our team's view.
Mr Chen said Lin Miaoke may not have realised she was not singing as her voice was similar to Yang Peiyi.
Lin's father, a photojournalist for the Beijing's Legal Evening News Lin Hui, told local media he only found out his daughter would be singing the lead 15 minutes before Friday's opening ceremony began.
The China Daily english-language newspaper quoted the "9-year-old songbird" as saying she (Lin) was thrilled mostly "because I felt so beautiful in my red dress".
Lin, who will be returning to school shortly according to her parents, appeared in a television ad with reigning Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang last year and earlier this year featured in an advertisement for the Beijing Olympics.
After her captivating performance Friday, the New York Times ran her picture on its front page and she has been inundated with offers within China.
In an interview with the national broadcaster, CCTV, the little girl whose appearance was rejected but not her voice, Yang Peiyi stoically said she had no regrets. "I am satisfied that my voice appeared in the opening ceremony,'' she said.
A netizen who posted Yang's picture and her comment on an official Chinese online forum wrote: "Every child when he or she comes into the world is hand-led by God. There is no ugly child.''
In other opening ceremony debate, a netizen questioned why Liu Huan, the famous Chinese male vocalist who sang the Olympic theme song with British singer Sarah Brightman atop a giant world globe, was allowed to appear as he was "ugly" and why he was dressed in what looked like a causal t-shirt and pants in contrast to his glamourous co-star.
- Sydney Morning Herald