Sydney, Beijing Olympic fakes?

2008-08-29 11:28

Sydney - China isn't the only country to fake a musical performance during an Olympic opening ceremony. It turns out that Australia knows a thing about miming music, too.

Eight years after Sydney hosted what was dubbed "the best Olympic Games ever," officials with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra acknowledged their stirring performance at the 2000 opening ceremony was entirely pre-recorded. And perhaps even more cringe-inducing for Sydneysiders: some of the music was recorded by the orchestra of Sydney's rival city, Melbourne.

The revelation of the mimed performance - which both orchestras have defended as a necessary precaution against embarrassing flubs - followed an international uproar over China's decision to pass off the voice of a 7-year-old singer as that of another girl at this year's Olympic opening ceremony.

The Beijing ceremony's chief music director said the real singer, Yang Peiyi, with her chubby face and crooked baby teeth, wasn't good looking enough. So the pigtailed and perky Lin Miaoke mouthed the words to "Ode to the Motherland" instead.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra managing director Trevor Green confirmed on Friday that the 2000 opening ceremony performance had been prerecorded by both the Sydney and Melbourne orchestras, saying that steps must be taken to ensure mistakes aren't made live during high-profile events.

Surprising

"If you've got an event the size of the Olympics, and you've got billions and billions of people watching it, you definitely have a backing track and mime to it, because anything could go wrong," Green said. "It's just a "safety first" thing. ... You cannot take the risk."

The Sydney orchestra's decision to call on Melbourne for help was not surprising, given the workload, Green added.

"It was just too much for one orchestra," he said. "We share artists all the time and conductors all the time."

Sydney Symphony Orchestra managing director Libby Christie did not return a call seeking comment on Friday, but earlier this week acknowledged the performance had been mimed.

"It was all pre-recorded and the MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) did record a minority of the music that was performed," Christie told The Sydney Morning Herald for a story published Tuesday. "It's correct that we were basically miming to a pre-recording."

Christie said tight deadlines and a "mountainous workload" required the use of two orchestras for the backing tape.

Yvonne Zammit, a Sydney symphony spokesperson, said on Friday that Christie stood by her earlier comments.

Christie said the Sydney orchestra rarely used recordings in place of live performances, but did so during the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Sydney. Green said his orchestra had also used a backing track at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

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