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A Big Leader Needs A Big Rig

Sun., June 22, 1997

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who came to the Denver summit with a save-the-environment agenda, did his part to cut back on Colorado smog. He’ll take home the award for the shortest motorcade: one bus.

President Clinton giggled as Kohl and his delegation - in a charter bus - pulled up to the Denver Public Library for the summit’s first formal working session.

“Like his limo? I do,” Clinton joked as he posed for photographs with the German leader.

The only drawback so far: The metro-size bus is too big to negotiate the driveways at some sites the leaders’ have visited, so the Kohl contingent has been parking on nearby streets and walking the rest of the way.

Global cowboys

Yee-haw! In the spirit of the Old West, Clinton sported a denim shirt, a bolo tie and cowboy boots at the summit dinner Saturday night.

Kohl, wearing a suit, best described Clinton’s get-up: “The chancellor said I look like the president of the farm association,” Clinton said with a laugh.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair took his cues from Clinton, donning blue jeans and a red-and-white checked shirt. But other leaders were less daring - French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac wore a business suit, too.

The leaders and their spouses dined on rattlesnake, buffalo and trout at a rustic restaurant designed to replicate an old fort on the outskirts of Denver.

Musical chairs

Maybe it was an international hazing ritual for the new guy.

As world leaders at the Summit of the Eight gathered in the blue-carpeted conference room of the Denver Public Library Saturday morning, Blair, recently elected British prime minister, approached the large wooden circular table only to discover he had no chair.

“Where’s the chair?” Clinton asked.

“Where’s the chair?” other leaders murmured.

Aides scrambled to locate the well-stuffed, high-back chair that should have accommodated the perplexed Labour leader at his first global summit but found only a smaller one instead that made him look, well, something less than dignified compared with his counterparts from Europe, Asia and North America.

Volunteerism at work

Eleanor G. Dwight had just about 14 days to turn 350 college kids, office clerks, teachers and retirees into a world-class volunteer force of traffic cops, media liaisons and information specialists.

“It’s like 100 political campaigns crammed into two weeks,” said Dwight, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency and was in charge of volunteers at the summit’s the International Media Center.

All in all, roughly 3,500 volunteers, who had to undergo a background check by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, helped hold down the estimated $20 million cost of playing host to the summit.

“I understood that it cost $40 million in Lyons, France,” said Dwight, 60, of Denver, said of last year’s summit.

Jerry M. Gotlieb, 56, also of Denver, saw volunteering as a way to help visitors enjoy his hometown.

“Denver’s been very good to me, and I thought I’d like to give something back to the city,” Gotlieb said as he directed traffic around the Convention Center.

Not so calculating

During a scene-setting address here Thursday, Clinton tried to use statistics he often throws into his speeches to make the case for international trade. “We are now slightly less than one-fifth of the world’s population but we have slightly more than 20 percent of the world’s wealth and income,” the president said.

Oops. Of course, the United States has 5 percent of the world population, not one-fifth, which would be 20 percent. Otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a point.

Without realizing the error, Clinton went on to say, “This is not a matter requiring Einstein to calculate.”

Then again, Einstein failed highschool math.

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