In my last post, I noted that, as many others have also described, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics were so impressive in terms of style and grandeur that they looked like they were flawless. Now, as many news organizations are reporting, it seems that some parts of the program were artificially made to look flawless:

Footprint fireworks and two Chinese girl singers © ABC News

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. . . .

The [footprint fireworks] were computer generated and were only seen by those watching television. There were actual fireworks in Beijing but viewers didn’t see them. . . . [A] 55-second sequence of steps was digitally recreated because it was impossible to film by helicopter. . . .

[Regarding the girl singing, musical director Chen Qigang said,] “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.”

So the cat is out of the bag — these two specific segments were “visually enhanced.” The question now, what does this mean and how does it reflect on China as a whole?

China’s critics will, and already have, jump all over this and say that this is further proof that China systematically cheats at everything, and that they’re more concerned with outward appearances than authentic, substantive content, whether it relates to its consumer products, its human rights record, or its opening ceremonies.

On the other hand, China’s supporters will argue that lip syncing and using different singers happens all the time in “show business.” After all, the song was sung by a little girl (Yang Peiyi), not an adult professional singer. Further, the “footprint fireworks” did actually take place, but because it was technologically close to impossible to film it using a helicopter, the version that TV viewers saw had them digitally substituted in.

For what’s worth, here’s my take: I can understand digitally enhancing the fireworks for TV viewers because actual footprint fireworks did take place. It would have been a different matter if no real footprint fireworks ever existed and that the producers created them from nowhere. But that’s not the case here.

But regarding the little girl singer, I am less sympathetic to the Chinese here. Plain and simple, I think it was wrong and improper to substitute a “prettier” little girl for the actual one who sang. It was not as though Yang Peiyi looked disfigured or even remotely ugly. The producers should have kept her in there — period.

In the larger scheme of things however, these two “visually enhanced” segments do not negate or diminish the quality and authenticity of the other spectacular scenes and performances that took place. Everything else about the opening ceremonies remains awe-inspiring.

Just as we would not judge an entire community by the acts of one or a few individuals, so too should we remember that these two segments in question (each of which still had their own elements of authenticity, as I noted) were only a small part of a larger whole.