The Sydney Olympics faked it, too

A commenter in the thread below points to an article in the Syndey Morning Herald about how the Sydney Symphony mimed its way through the Opening Ceremony performance for the 2000 Games in their home city. And it’s more than just synching/miming:

Even worse, it admits the backing tape was recorded, in part, by its southern rival, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

So the parallel with the China crooked teeth controversy intensifies. Not just faking it, but taking credit for what was the work of another.

I haven’t said much about this because of mixed feelings. I don’t like the practice of lip-synching because it’s deceptive – no matter how you parse it, you are fooling the viewers. So I understand the critics of Pavarotti and countless caught-lip-synching pop stars who felt they didn’t get what they paid for. At least what they heard was the artist him/herself, even if it was canned and piped in – if that’s any consolation.

It goes to a whole different level when you’re lip-synching and pretending to be the performer when you’re actually not. It’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t ruin the Opening Ceremonies of Sydney or Beijing. It just doesn’t look good, even when they have excellent excuses. It looks even worse when it appears the main factor influencing the decision is the real singer’s teeth. In Sydney, the excuse was lack of time to make a backup tape (or something like that). Whatever. It still looks deceptive, and certainly blows a big hole in the argument that “only China” would go to such lengths to cover up reality in the name of putting on a good show.

Let’s focus more on things that really matter instead of trying to make China look bad for what was a spectacular Opening Ceremony and a very well-hosted Games. There are plenty of other things to criticize China for.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

Neither girl is a professional singer or actress. One amature performer lip-syncing another amature performer is no big deal.

August 27, 2008 @ 4:18 pm | Comment

It’s not a big deal. It wasn’t smart and it wasn’t necessary and it says something about an on-going lack of confidence (which we all knew existed anyway), but it wasn’t at all a big deal.

August 27, 2008 @ 4:57 pm | Comment

What about sending grannies off for “re-education” through labour for simply wanting to do what they’ve been told they could do (ask for permission to protest) – is that a big deal?

August 27, 2008 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

Raj, did you see the last line of my post? Of course it’s a big deal to send the grannies for education through labor. A very big deal. The lip-synching is a very small deal. The fireworks “scandal” wasn’t a deal at all. I don’t like dwelling on things that don’t matter, like some gaffe a politician makes or some weird thing they did 20 years ago, or some dumb bureaucrat’s decision to lip-synch a song. It was definitely poor judgment. It was not sinister, like the treatment of the grannies.

August 27, 2008 @ 6:47 pm | Comment

Richard, I was talking to Serve the People – I didn’t make that clear first time.

August 27, 2008 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

In the US the president lip synchs and the real voice is provided by a crooked guy called Cheney.

August 27, 2008 @ 9:17 pm | Comment

What Sydney did was not a big deal. What China did was not a big deal either, it was silly, even stupid, but not a big deal.

The big deal is, how people react to them so differently. That shows so much about where the relationship of China and the West is standing at, and where it might go.

August 27, 2008 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

>>The big deal is, how people react to them so differently.

Objectively speaking, both instances of fakery are equally stupid. But you are entirely correct to say that many people react differently to them. Why? China has a “communist,” authoritarian government. People in the West don’t like those. So whatever happens in China that fits in with that negative image will just feed their negative impressions of that system.

As long as China has that system, which is so despised in the West, all of this whining about “media bias” and the rest of the world “keeping China down” will not accomplish one thing — well, other than convincing the rest of the world that Chinese have been brainwashed.

So, what is the solution? Get rid of that system. China can host 1,000 Olympics and it wouldn’t change one thing as long as you have a picture of a mass-murderer hanging in Tiananmen Square. That is just the hard reality. Is it fair? No, probably not. But if Russia still had pictures of Stalin hanging in Red Square, do you think it would “get respect” from the rest of the world?

I know that saying something like this will just make many Chinese LOVE Mao even more, but there it is.

August 28, 2008 @ 1:28 am | Comment

The alternative, by the way, is to refuse to give up that system and the CCP, half out of spite for the West. That is China’s decision. However, if China chooses to do that, it should accept the consequences: no “respect.” It can’t have it both ways. My point is only that it is slightly schizophrenic to demand “respect for China” while simultaneously clinging to a system and party that the rest of the world despises.

If Tojo were still in charge of Japan and his portrait were plastered all over the place, I think China would find it absurd if Japan constantly complained that it wasn’t getting “respect” from China.

Part of the problem, of course, is that most Chinese don’t even realized how despised Mao is in the West. Just like most Chinese don’t realize that most people outside of China have a very negative view of the place/government. (This in part explains the shock in China after the French-Tibetan fiasco).

August 28, 2008 @ 1:44 am | Comment

@HongWang,

I appreciate your frankness, that’s a bit of fresh air here. You’re right, a lot of Chinese are whining about media bias and double standard from the west, they soon will realize that’s just the hard cold reality of the west, they soon will realize their fantasy of the free medias can be something fair and ethical, is just a delusion. Then they will move on bitterly, and stop to care anything the west has to say. That’s when China will turn into another Russia.

August 28, 2008 @ 6:14 am | Comment

>>they soon will realize their fantasy of the free medias can be something fair and ethical, is just a delusion.

“Free media” has absolutely nothing to do with being “fair” or “ethical.” The word “free” indicates only that it isn’t controlled by the state. Most Chinese have trouble with that distinction. They think “free” means “unbiased” or “fair” and then scream “hypocrisy” when they find evidence of bias or unfair reporting. It isn’t hypocrisy. They are just confusing two different issues.

It is free because YOU are free to point out its biases. YOU are free to start your own media outlet. You are free to spout your own biases. You are free to create your own newspaper, blog, etc., that you think is “fair” and “ethical” — and the state can’t stop you. Don’t confuse that freedom with fairness or bias. The freedom has to do with who CONTROLS information, not how that information is presented by various companies and individuals (who are all biased).

So, by all means, point out how biased and unfair the Western media is. That is a right that doesn’t exist in China…which is the whole point. A lot of Chinese like to exercise that right in foreign countries — they obviously think it is an important right to have — the ability to point out the bullshit of the media or the government (the same thing in China, of course). So, tell me, who is the hypocrite here?

August 28, 2008 @ 7:28 am | Comment

So China fakes one girl’s lip synching, (the real singer’s name was credited in the programme list distributed to the guests at the ceremony, a fact conveniently omitted by the Western press), and the New York times journalist yells: “Oh my god! This is HUGE! In my 20 years of journalistic career, I have not seen somthing this scandalous, this outrageous! How can they fake the singing at such an impportant ceremony! This highlights the nature of the Chinese regime to deceive, highlights the nature of the CCP to lie! It all makes sense! Another piece of evidence that China is not to be trusted! This needs to be the headline news of our paper tomorrow!” (in fact, it WAS headline news (not just sports section, but headline news in the ENTIRE paper in several new york city local papers several weeks ago).

Australia fakes an entire symphony’s performance and was never acknowlegded till today. And the New York times reporter shrugs his shoulder and says “Ehhh. Not such a big deal. Why make such a big fuss? Let’s now talk about how China locks away grandmothers trying to petition to protest!!!!”

That, my friend, highlights the true nature of the Western press.

August 28, 2008 @ 7:54 am | Comment

I just posted this Australia symphony news to an American forum seeking comments from the American posters. Here are the first 2 posts so far on this:

“Chinese deserve more criticsm cause their Government are pieces of shit to begin with.”

“China faked because of a persons looks, it seems as though sydney did to avoid a blunder….. two entirely different stories…”

I honestly have no comments. I do know how to respond to them. Please, help me interpret those 2 comments.

August 28, 2008 @ 8:00 am | Comment

Red star, trust me, if some additional news of fakery in the 2008 Opening Ceremony emerges eight years after the fact, the Western media will not make it a front-page story. In fact, they may not even mention it. They probably would never have mentioned the Sydney story from 8 years ago, and did so yesterday only because it tied in with a much more topical story. It’s to their credit that they ran the story, making themselves look kind of hypocritical and over-hysterical over a storm in a teapot.

August 28, 2008 @ 8:32 am | Comment

HongWang
Word of teh day: hypocrisy
This is what the big deal is. But then, perhaps not, since this is what western media now stands for. If a free press doesn’t get you more balanced reporting, what’s being free good for?

China may or may not change its authoritarian ways. But either way, it’s not due to a desire to please stupid racists on the other side of the planet.

The commies are stupid too. They should stop blocking “news” sites as they have nothing to fear from these propaganda outfits thesedays.

August 28, 2008 @ 9:02 am | Comment

>>If a free press doesn’t get you more balanced reporting, what’s being free good for?

If you are honestly arguing that CCTV is “more balanced” than the HUNDREDS of different outlets of the free press in the West, then you are delusional. The “free press” is not only CNN, the BBC, and FOX. It is also thousands of newspapers, journals, and blogs — not to mention TV stations and books. They all have their own biases and points of view. For example, under the free system of the West, if I don’t like the “Western media,” I can read the Chinese or North Korean media instead — all of it, nothing edited out for my “own protection.”

That’s one. Two: what being free is good for? SO YOU CAN CRITICIZE THE MEDIA AND THE GOVERNMENT WHEN YOU THINK THEY ARE BIASED AND WRONG. So you can influence the coverage of others. So you can offer your own viewpoint without the fear of reprisal. Hmmm, much like you just did.

If you think people should not be free and that everything they say should be scrutinized by government censors first, then you should stop being such a hypocrite. Stop commenting on this blog and don’t criticize the Western media until your criticisms are first screened by a government agent. If that is the system you are advocating, the least you can do is apply it to yourself.

August 28, 2008 @ 10:52 am | Comment

“Red star, trust me, if some additional news of fakery in the 2008 Opening Ceremony emerges eight years after the fact, the Western media will not make it a front-page story. In fact, they may not even mention it.”

This is true. Somewhere down the line it will be revealed that He Kexin and co really were underage, but the story will be dismissed as being of too little importance to warrant a headline. Beijing knows this very well.

On the face of it (China’s overriding concern) these were “well-hosted Games”. Apart from the cheating mentioned above, there are plenty of areas in which it fell short. Here are a few:

lack of sportsmanship
Lack of an ‘International’ atmosphere at Games venues
Biased judging
Ticket sales and distribution
Press freedom / access to athletes
some disrespectful crowd reaction

These are the very areas that London are certain to improve upon. As for the ceremonies and stadiums, London shouldn’t even try to match Beijing.

August 28, 2008 @ 11:20 am | Comment

“Red star, trust me, if some additional news of fakery in the 2008 Opening Ceremony emerges eight years after the fact, the Western media will not make it a front-page story. In fact, they may not even mention it. They probably would never have mentioned the Sydney story from 8 years ago, and did so yesterday only because it tied in with a much more topical story. It’s to their credit that they ran the story, making themselves look kind of hypocritical and over-hysterical over a storm in a teapot.’

The only reason the Sydney story just broke out this week, is that all the musicians involved had to sign a confidentiality agreement. Appparently someone just breached it after 8 yrs. So not only they mimed the thing, they were also determined to hide it, unlike stupid Chinese who came clean rightway, even before the show was over.

August 28, 2008 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

hongwang, i don’t think that the chinese people should be making decisions based on how western media see them. nobody in the world should live for media, not the chinese, not the westerners. that is basic human dignity.

the media is just there to sell advertising, they’re free to say whatever they choose to say, and we’re free to ignore them.

and by the way, cctv isn’t free, but it isn’t as trashy as fox news either.

August 29, 2008 @ 9:38 pm | Comment

HongWang,

I find your statement rather disturbing, are you saying that western medias actually are biased against China? like many Chinese nationalists have long accused? and the self claimed journalism and ethics is just a phony show? but under the name of freedom it’s alright?

August 31, 2008 @ 11:58 am | Comment

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