China

Shanghai New Year drone display was pre-recorded

Drone display over Shanghai Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The choreographed New Year display actually happened a few days earlier

A spectacular drone display in Shanghai to mark the start of the new year did not actually happen at New Year, it has emerged.

The display of thousands of drones flying in formation over the city was widely covered by global media.

But people who were at the event on New Year's Eve have said they saw nothing.

The company behind the display has confirmed to the BBC that the footage broadcast around the world was actually from a practice run on 28 December.

Footage of the impressive display was released to the world's media by China's state-run media.

It shows 2,000 drones taking off against the dramatic skyline of Shanghai's Pudong district, then creating firework shapes, an animated running man figures and then spelling out 2020 and Chinese characters in the sky.

The video was picked up by the world's media and widely hailed as a futuristic and low-pollution alternative to traditional fireworks.

But as local English news site The Shanghaiist reported, people who were watching from the riverside area The Bund across from Pudong "say they didn't see anything in the night sky. No drones. No nothing".

"This blows my mind because it's 100% Chinese fake news. We stood outside last night for a show that never happened," one person, Patrick Cox, said on Twitter.

Shanghaiist noted that one video posted on 29 December appeared to show exactly the same display.

One video purportedly of midnight on New Year's Eve shows the lights over the Pudong district going out, only to come back on again a few moments later with no drones appearing.

The BBC contacted the company behind the display, Yihang Bailu, whose media manager admitted that it was filmed on 28 December.

The manager said it had been arranged by local TV station Shanghai Dragon Television "to ensure the global live broadcasting effect".

It also emerged that local authorities had also posted on their official social media accounts on 30 December that there would be "no New Year Eve celebration activity" on The Bund this year.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNew Year Fireworks: The world welcomes 2020

However some people appeared not to mind that the Shanghai footage was not entirely as advertised.

Comments defending the move on the China's CCTV news agency's YouTube page said it did not matter when it took place, it was still an impressive show.

Others said it was a responsible move, to prevent possible injuries or overcrowding.

Shanghai has held muted New Year events ever since a stampede in 2014 left nearly 40 people dead in crushes.

Pre-recording highly choreographed drones is not entirely new.

In 2018, it was confirmed that TV viewers of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea were shown a "secretly pre-recorded" drone display, because of the risk of freezing weather and winds causing disruption on the night.

And a dramatic sequence of fireworks crossing Beijing like footsteps during the 2008 Olympics was also faked for TV audiences.

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