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Original Issue

Opening Jitters

July 28 was the 25th anniversary of the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (THE VAULT, page 74). The ceremonies were produced by acclaimed TV and film producer David Wolper, now 81, who here shares an anecdote showing that all was not as calm behind the scenes as it appeared.

Before the ceremonies I was in my private booth in the L.A. Coliseum. A nurse had given me two Valium to keep my nerves down; I'd had a heart bypass in 1975, and she wanted to be sure there wasn't too much stress. The show featured 8,000 cast members and 9,000 athletes, and a half hour before showtime I got word that everyone was ready to go. Shortly after, Roone Arledge, the president of ABC Sports, called to say, "Good luck, David."

A few moments later Ed Best, the head of security, came in and said, "David, don't get nervous, but we think there may be a bomb in the torch tower." I looked over and saw a dozen bomb-squad officers crawling along the Coliseum roof toward the tower. The stadium had been swept earlier that day, but now the lock on the torch tower was broken, and inside were two big boxes with wires protruding.

I thought of the terrorist massacre of Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. I was there, and I remembered the horror. I called show designer Rene Legler: "Can you build a temporary torch receptacle, something interesting, in case we can't light the main torch?"

I didn't tell anyone else about the bomb, and I'm glad I didn't. About 20 minutes into the show Best came into my booth: False alarm. ABC needed to pull some wires through the tower to put a camera in a spot to get a shot of Rafer Johnson lighting the torch. They couldn't find the key, so a technician broke the lock, ran the wires through and left the empty camera boxes in the tower.



FIRE STORM Johnson never knew about the bomb scare.