Read my lips ... Lin Miaoke miming the song on Friday. Inset: Yang Peiyi, the face of the real voice.
LIN MIAOKE, 9, the Chinese girl in the red dress who captured the world's hearts when she sang solo during the Olympic opening ceremony, is the hottest child star on the planet.
However, the voice the world heard singing so sweetly was not Lin's. It was a pre-recording of another child, Yang Peiyi, 7, who was dropped from the opening ceremony at the last minute in the "national interest". The switch happened at the behest of a member of China's politburo.
The general music designer of the opening ceremony, Chen Qigang, told Beijing Radio he owed the nation an explanation and he wanted to ensure Yang's contribution was recognised.
Mr Chen said the original choice for the lead was a 10-year-old girl, who was used throughout the rehearsals for Friday's opening extravaganza but she was dumped after the director, Zhang Yimou, deemed her "a little too old".
A group of younger girls was then shortlisted, including Lin and Yang. After recording them, Mr Chen's team unanimously decided Yang's sweet voice was "flawless" and that she would sing the lead. However, at the final rehearsals a member of China's ruling nine-man politburo made his dissatisfaction with Yang clear.
There were rumours at the time of the rehearsals that unspecified, last-minute changes had been ordered by the senior leadership.
"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 may not have realised she was not singing, as her voice was similar to Yang's.
In an interview with the national broadcaster CCTV, Yang, the little girl's whose appearance was rejected, 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."
Meanwhile, Lin's father a photojournalist for Beijing's Legal Evening News, told local media he found out his daughter would be singing the lead only 15 minutes before the opening ceremony. The China Daily had quoted the "nine-year-old songbird" Lin as saying she was thrilled mostly "because I felt so beautiful in my red dress".
Lin, who will return to school soon, her parents say, is a well-recognised face who appeared in a television advertisement with the reigning Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang last year and earlier this year featured in an advertisement for the Games.
After her captivating performance on Friday, The New York Times ran her picture on its front page and she has been inundated with offers within China.