Opening Ceremony Dancer Possibly Paralyzed and Other Scoops by Chinese Media

Beijing officials are going to great lengths to detain, search and intimidate foreign journalists reporting on the Olympics. But it's Chinese media outlets that are breaking the most damaging stories.

One day after Beijing Radio revealed that the angelic girl who performed "Ode to the Motherland" during the Opening Ceremony was lip syncing, Chinese newspapers pressured Olympic officials to acknowledge a dancer in the same performance had been seriously injured at a dress rehearsal.

Rumors had been circulating for weeks that 26-year-old Liu Yan, a dancer in the ceremony, fell from a 10-foot stage on July 27 and was paralyzed as a result of the accident. The Yangtze Evening News and the Shanghai Morning Post both carried prominent stories about Liu this week.

The Yangtze news said Liu, one of the country's top dancers, had been selected for a solo act in the Silk Road part of the performance. The Shanghai paper quoted a medical doctor saying she underwent six hours of surgery and that it's possible she may not walk again.

Beijing Olympic organizing committee spokesman Wang Wei acknowledged at the daily press conference today that she was hurt during the accident and remains hospitalized but declined to comment on the reports of her paralysis.

"This is a very private question. I understand that she was seriously injured, but I'm not sure whether she is paralyzed or not," Wang said.

Tuesday's Beijing News radio report, which featured an exclusive interview with Chen Qigang, music director for the Opening Ceremony, revealed that organizers deemed the singer not cute enough to perform although she had the best voice.

Also this week the Beijing Times said that Olympic organizers had worked with the state-run television station CCTV for over a year to animate the massive fireworks displays that were being broadcast to viewers as being live footage. Gao Xiaolong, who works for the company that created the fake images, said organizers were worried that it might be difficult to capture the beauty of the fireworks accurately on live camera.

The reports have raised questions about the costs of Chinese leaders' obsession with perfection and the lengths to which they are going to ensure an Olympics that they consider a success.

The Chinese media articles have been so provocative that Chinese officials are now giving them the same treatment as controversial reports by foreign journalists: They're censoring them. As of late Wednesday, links to the reports had disappeared from the respective media outlets' Web sites.

--Ariana Eunjung Cha

August 13, 2008; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Postmark Beijing
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