Entitled “The girls in white carry water bottles on their waists for the athletes,” the article details the rigorous training process thousands of young girls went through before they could appear in the opening ceremony.
The Beijing News was founded and is supervised by the Guangming Daily, a state-run media.
The selection process started last September, when thousands of girls from universities and dance academies in Beijing registered as candidates, the report says. They had to be 166cm tall, energetic, and have “good-looking faces,” it said.
Any girl shorter than 166 cm would be disqualified, and they were required to learn to walk like models.
The report said they were asked to maintain smiles for “very long time,” and in a “natural way” in front of cameras; any girl found unsuitable in the camera footage was eliminated.
Last December they were informed that they would also be subject to a stricter selection for those who would be the “white dress girls,” based on a measurement of their body frames. The girls gathered in a room, stripped off their clothes, were measured one by one, and sifted out, the report said.
400 were finally selected to be part of the elite group.
At the opening ceremony they participated in the programme called “smiling faces.” The report notes that after their 6 month training, they featured in the ceremony for three minutes.
After the opening ceremony they were supposed to “bounce vivaciously” on the spot for two hours, the longest continuous performance of the night, as they welcomed the athletes. They were taught five dances, and performed them one after another.
Other reports say they actually danced and welcomed the athletes for three hours, and in the height of Beijing summer at least one passed out from exhaustion and had to be taken off.
“We want to dance until the last audience member leaves, only then will we leave.” Zhang Fan, 20, from the Beijing University of Agriculture, was quoted as saying. She also explained that the over 90 girls from her university who participated were exempt from exams for two semesters.
Zhang said that after the intense daily training of different movements and “smile training”, from 6am until around 7pm since mid-April, she began to feel like a smiling puppet.
The article also indicated that there were strict requirements for the water bottles carried on their waists: they were only for athletes, and the girls were not permitted to drink from the bottles themselves.
Some Chinese bloggers thought that the girls being stripped naked and having their bodies measured was disgusting. “Under such a system,” one blogger wrote, “a human being is not like a human being.”
“This clearly indicates that the ruler of this country suffer abnormal psychology,” commented another.
Starting from August 15 the girls in white will be called to practice again, for the upcoming Paralympic Games, the article said.