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Some 34.2 million viewers watched the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing on Aug. 8, 2008. However, following the spectacular show, Western news reports charged that organizers of the event had deceived the audience by using trickery to augment the proceedings, including having a little girl lip-synch a patriotic song and representing contingents of ethnic minorities with actors. Critics claim as well that the ceremony’s spectacular fireworks show, which was conceived by Chinese art star Cai Guo-Qiang, wasn’t all it seemed to be.
The impressive fireworks display included a series of 29 giant footprints, made of white starbursts, that seemed to traverse the sky from Tiananmen Square to the Olympic Stadium. But the TV presentation of the fireworks, broadcast to the world as well as shown on the giant screens within the Olympic Stadium, included not the actual event but rather a 55-second digital film of the 29 footprints, complete with simulated camera jitter and haze, seamlessly inserted into the broadcast.
Representatives of the Beijing Games have stated that the digital trickery was necessary because the actual effect would not have been clearly visible in the prevailing atmospheric conditions, while filming it from the air would have endangered the helicopter pilot. Here, the artist himself responds to the controversy: