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Olympic singer: Give her the limelight

Aug. 13, 2008, 3:25 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The father of the Chinese girl who lip-synched a song at the Olympic opening ceremony because the real singer was judged to be not perfect-looking said Wednesday the other girl was cute too.

The father spoke as support grew for the idea of finding the true vocalist a spot in the games' closing show.

News of the last-minute switch that put Lin Miaoke center stage at what was likely one of the most watched performances in history is the latest embarrassment for games organizers who have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the event goes off flawlessly.

In a sparkling red dress, Miaoke soared on wires above 91,000 people attending the ceremony and mouthed the words to "Ode to the Motherland."

But the voice heard by the crowd and by a worldwide television audience estimated to be in the billions was that of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was pulled from the performance after the final dress rehearsal because she did not have the right look, a senior official said.

"Yang Peiyi's looks are OK," Lin Hui, the father of Miaoke, told The Associated Press by telephone on Wednesday. "In my opinion, she's not ugly. She looks cute."

Photos of Peiyi on a blog by her tutor show a typically pretty girl in a white dress with a pink clip in her hair. She appears to be losing her milk teeth, and her two front teeth are only partially grown, at slightly awkward angles.

Olympic officials faced a barrage of questions on Wednesday about the switch, and the families and other representatives of both girls said the two would not be available to speak to news media.

The issue was being widely debated on the Internet in China and on the streets of Beijing, where many people felt the two separate roles should not have been kept secret and that Peiyi should be included in the glitzy closing ceremony scheduled for Aug. 24.

"I don't agree with the decision because they are kids and it may scar them for life," said Li Lin, 41, a marketing worker in Beijing. "I think the girl with the voice should have a chance to perform at the closing ceremonies. It would be a great chance for her to redeem herself to the world."

More ire was directed at the organizers for not going public with the decision, rather than at Miaoke, whose performance was highly praised immediately after the opening ceremony.

The secret was revealed by Chen Qigang, the opening ceremony's chief musical director, in an interview Sunday with state-owned Beijing Radio, in which he said a senior Politburo member said Miaoke's voice was not good enough for the ceremony but that Peiyi did not look right. By using both girls, "We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance," Chen said.

Chen, a French national, later told AP Television News he felt compelled to "to come out with the truth." Peiyi was "a magnificent singer" who "doesn't deserve to be hidden," he said, before declining further comment.

Chen's original interview was posted on Beijing Radio's Web site Sunday night. By Tuesday, after it began to be picked up by other media, the link was shut down. The Chinese government routinely blocks sites that are politically sensitive or that could cause embarrassment to the country's communist rulers.

Lin declined to answer when asked if Peiyi should be included in the closing ceremony, except to say that he was not the director. He said his daughter was not doing any rehearsals and that he presumed she would not be involved in the closing ceremony.

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Associated Press Writer Cara Anna in Beijing contributed to this report.

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