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World: The Human Side Of The Summit Of The Eight

Denver, Colorado; 21 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - One world leader was left without a chair, another arrived in a tour bus, and another led the weight loss competition.

Yeltsin Wins Game Of Musical Chairs

The Summit of the Eight. It's a name designed to reflect that while Russia is now a nearly full participant, Moscow has not exactly achieved the status implied if the G-7 group designation were changed to the G-8.

It isn't a point that has bothered the American hosts of this annual summit, but it caused some red faces when at the first formal session in the Denver Central Public Library, only seven chairs had been arranged around the leader's table.

Russia's President Boris Yeltsin wasted no time in grabbing his coveted chair first, and only when one man was left standing -- Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair -- did red-faced aides realize that in this game of musical chairs, the British appeared out.

But not for long. In a flash, an aide produced the missing chair and the Summit of the Eight could begin.

Arrivals, Departures, Limousines.....And The Bus

Arranging the arrivals and departures for eight major world leaders and their motorcades in and out of a single location is a challenge of choreography. It requires split-second timing, instant communication and the ability to direct eight different groups of vehicles, each accompanied by a phalanx of motorcycle policemen.

At the opening dinner last night at a mansion in downtown Denver, the arrivals came off with great precision, each leader timed to arrive four minutes apart, allowing just enough time for the honor guard to change flags.

But Japan's Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto arrived one minute early and then didn't wait to be greeted on the front steps by host President Bill Clinton, but rushed inside. The honor guard quickly removed the Japanese flag, only having to scramble to replace it moments later as Clinton and Hashimoto emerged from the mansion to re-stage a formal welcome for the cameras.

The timing was better for the arrivals at the first formal session of the summit this morning in front of the Denver Central Library. Russia's President Boris Yeltsin, getting very much back into a campaign style, was the only leader to stop and wave at crowds of onlookers across the street, before turning to be welcomed by Clinton. More than once on his visit to Denver, Yeltsin has broken from his schedule and waded into crowds of onlookers to shake hands and mix with the local people.

But credit for the chuckle of the summit goes to Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl who has refused to use the normal black limousine replete with flags fluttering from the front fenders.

Instead, Kohl arrived at the opening dinner last night, and again at the formal summit sessions this morning, in a city tour bus.

The bus couldn't fit into the space designed to let the leaders step out onto a red carpet, so at the mansion, Kohl's bus stopped on the street and the Chancellor and his aides climbed out and walked up the driveway. Clinton broke out laughing as he greeted Kohl, remarking: "Helmut, you've got a whole bus!"

Some wags were heard to remark that the portly German leader may simply feel more comfortable stepping down from a bus than lifting himself out of the back seat of an automobile.

Yeltsin Takes Summit Prize For Weight Loss

Germany's Helmut Kohl is obviously the largest of the eight world leaders meeting in Denver, Colorado this weekend.

But when he and Russian President Boris Yeltsin hugged as they left the opening night dinner last night, it was clear who has been gaining weight and who has been losing it.

Yeltsin, with a svelt new figure after his heart surgery, looked amazingly small next to Kohl. In fact, Yeltsin joked with some reporters yesterday that he needed some new suits because he had lost over 30 kilograms since his illness.

Journalists were noting that the Russian president has a new spring to his step, but couldn't help recalling his old reputation for drink. One example came in a report filed by a small group of reporters designated as what is called a "pool" to observe events and share their observations with collegues. Two American journalists in the pool noted that as he went into his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday "the Russian president appeared very fit -- and in good spirits, so to speak."