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Chrome Beauties ‘Break the Marketing Clutter,’ Embarrass Organizers

July 19, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ With Hollywood’s help, Atlanta will put on a stompin’, soarin’, high-energy show tonight to open the Centennial Olympics, some of it just local kids steppin’ up a storm. But it’s Detroit that’s truckin’ up a furor.

Opening ceremony producer Don Mischer said Thursday his big worry is that rain squalls might dampen the four hours of festivities. But he also was clearly troubled by General Motors’ injection of commercialism into his event.

``I was sorry to see what GM publicized regarding this,″ the Hollywood impresario said.

What General Motors was crowing about was getting 30 gleaming, chrome-painted pickup trucks into a major Mischer production number _ each sporting a vivid blue ``CHEVROLET″ on its tailgate.

The automaker boasted it is ``believed to be the first Olympic sponsor to ever be included in the opening ceremonies.″

The real coup in that, GM’s marketing chief exulted in a news release, is that it enables Chevrolet to ``break through the marketing clutter″ of other advertisers.

Some who saw the breakthrough at a dress rehearsal Wednesday night expressed surprise at the glaring brand-naming of stage equipment in what is supposed to be a ceremony focusing on lofty principles of global brotherhood. Atlanta Olympic organizers, who also were there, apparently agreed.

Said an authoritative source, ``Those trucks are not going to look that way Friday night″ _ when President Clinton will be in the stands and hundreds of millions will be watching on television worldwide. What might be done to soften the image could not be learned.

The fleet of powerful Silverados are platforms for spotlights illuminating hundreds of cheerleaders and dancers who perform a show-stopping prime-time number, ``Atlanta’s Welcome to the World.″ The trucks sometimes face inward toward the field, sometimes roar around the stadium track.

The International Olympic Committee has sanctioned the presence of standard stadium billboard ads during such ceremonies. But Olympic specialists could not immediately recall any previous on-field product display.

Later Thursday, GM spokesman Dean Rotondo said the company had apologized for its news release ``because we never intended to put (the organizers) in any sort of compromising and embarrassing position.″

But Rotondo said that as of late Thursday GM had not been asked to modify the vehicles.

Trucks aside, the Olympics opener promises a rousing, diverse night of entertainment that touches on themes both local and universal.

It also may be the last time the world gets to see the traditional Summer Olympics ``Parade of Nations,″ the grand entry of athletes into the stadium.

The numbers have become so unwieldy _ more than 10,000 marchers on tonight _ and the parade so time-consuming that organizers of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, are considering simply opening the ceremony with the national delegations seated in the stands, Mischer told reporters.

Organizers have worked hard to keep elements of the opening ceremony under wraps until tonight, including the method to be used for the climactic lighting of the stadium cauldron with the Olympic torch.

At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, the moment was spellbinding: An archer fired a flaming arrow at the cauldron from midfield. Mischer hinted the Atlanta lighting ceremony might be simpler and more traditional.

``Sometimes simplicity is the easiest,″ he said.

The producer said the ``Atlanta Welcome″ number, a stirring musical explosion of humanity in motion, was based on suggestions by local high school and college kids who demonstrated their stepping, clogging and cheerleading moves for him and became the volunteer cast.

The program also includes the vast, symbolic choreographies that have become standard for recent Olympics _ swirling colors, flocks of performers in fantasy costumes, and vague story lines and messages.

Big-name singers _ Gladys Knight, Celine Dion, Jessye Norman _ are also on the night’s program, along with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and a 300-strong Centennial Choir.

But all eyes will fall on another big name at one climactic moment, when ushers lead the 80,000 spectators in a twice-around-the-stadium ``wave.″

Will the man in the presidential box join in?

``We’ll see what Mr. Clinton does,″ Mischer said. ``I don’t think he’ll be shy.″

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