It was billed as the opening ceremony to end all opening ceremonies — a $278 million extravaganza spanning thousands of years of Chinese history and executed with faultless precision.
But after a week of damaging revelations, yet another seam unraveled Friday with news that the children used in the ceremony to represent China's 56 ethnic groups were not minority children at all.
Instead, said an official with the children's dance troupe, they were all members of China's dominant Han majority, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the country's 1.3 billion people.
"I assume they think the kids were very natural looking and nice," the deputy director of Galaxy Children's Art Troupe, Yuan Zhifeng, told the Asian Wall Street Journal.
Olympic organizers had previously insisted that the children, dressed in minority costumes and paraded into the Bird's Nest stadium carrying the Chinese flag in a moment that represented national unity, were the real thing.
"Fifty-six children from 56 Chinese ethnic groups cluster around the Chinese national flag," read the ceremony program.
The vice-President of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, Wang Wei, refused to be drawn on the issue. "I think you are being very meticulous," he told reporters. "I see nothing wrong exactly with [where] the children are from." It was perfectly traditional in China for performers to dress up to represent ethnic minorities, he added.