Milli Vanilli plays Beijing

In cheating news, mini-scandals about deception at the Opening Ceremonies have replaced drug busts. For now.

Published August 12, 2008 6:20PM (EDT)

The drug tests haven't been coming back positive so far, so the eyes of the world are searching hungrily for cheaters.

Adorable 9-year-old pixie from the Opening Ceremonies: J'accuse!

The Olympics have produced their own Milli Vanilli scandal with the revelation that Lin Miaoke, the little girl in the red dress who sang a song at the Opening Ceremonies last week actually lip-synced to the voice of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi.

Chinese officials had ordered the switch just before the ceremony, decreeing that the Miaoke, with "flawless" looks, should replace Peiyi, who has a "flawless" voice but crooked teeth. Authorities are unapologetic about the snub of Peiyi -- who, it goes without saying, her being a 7-year-old girl and everything, is ridiculously adorable herself.

"The audience will understand that it's in the national interest," the Associated Press reported music director Chen Qigang saying. Chen said the switch was requested by a Politburo member. "We had to make that choice. It was fair both for Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi," the AP said Chen told Beijing Radio. "We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance."

This was essentially the issue with Milli Vanilli, and all these years later, I still don't get what was so upsetting about that whole thing. The people behind Milli Vanilli were in the business of putting out music that sounded good and videos that looked good. Why did they have to be made by the same people? If you liked the record when you thought these guys were singing, why don't you still like it now that you know those guys are?

The real problem there, I get it, was the deception. I guess I'm alone in not needing my singers of pop tunes to be tellers of truth. Singers say "I love you" to me every time I turn on the radio, but it never occurred to me to believe them. They don't even know me.

If deception is the issue in Beijing -- and from the coverage, that's how it looks to me -- it's not an issue. From Chen's comments, it sounds like the organizers would have had no problem being up-front about Miaoke not being the actual singer if they'd known it was going to be a big deal. There's probably more deception involved in the China News Service reports that Peiyi was perfectly fine with the switch than in the switch itself.

The real issue, it seems to me, is a nation-state taking the official position that a 7-year-old girl is too ugly to represent it, and making no bones about that position. That's pretty disturbing. But it's not among the most disturbing positions staked out by that particular nation-state.

Yet another cheating mini-scandal also involves the Opening Ceremonies. It was "revealed," and confirmed by organizers Tuesday, that the fireworks that were supposed to look like giant footsteps marching through Beijing toward the Bird's Nest stadium were actually computer-generated images.

NBC has taken some flak for not being clear about that. Matt Lauer and Bob Costas mentioned that the fireworks involved "animation," but they're being knocked for only hinting at the deception.

Here's a transcript of what they said, courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter:

Lauer: You're looking at a cinematic device employed by [Opening Ceremonies director] Zhang Yimou here. This is actually almost animation. A footstep a second, 29 in all, to signify the 29 Olympiads.

Costas: We said earlier that aspects of this Opening Ceremony are almost like cinema in real time. Well this is quite literally cinematic.

I'm having a hard time finding the motivation to man the barricades on this one too. Here's how clear I thought Lauer and Costas were: My entire storehouse of knowledge about the footsteps fireworks came from their comments quoted above, and the thing that surprised me about Tuesday's revelations was that there were actual footsteps fireworks in Beijing Friday night.

TV viewers saw the fakes, which also appeared on the stadium's video screens. But there were real fireworks too. Lauer and Costas led me to believe otherwise. Scoundrels!

The swimming has been thrilling. The gymnastics dramatic. The wide world of Olympic sports have been churning away entertainingly -- did you see Great Britain-Pakistan men's field hockey?

But the cheating scandals have not been up to the high standards of the Olympics thus far. We need a good drug bust.

I have every confidence.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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