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Friday, Dec. 8
The Indiana Daily Student


Olympic organizers hope to hit the right notes

The 2002 Winter Olympics are all about gold, silver, bronze -- and platinum.\nOrganizers of this year's Olympiad, which kicks off Friday in Salt Lake City, hope that nightly performances by multiplatinum pop music superstars will give the Games a new attitude -- and lure more viewers to give ratings a big boost.\nThe schedule for a special concert series, in conjunction with each evening's athlete medal presentations, reads almost like Billboard's Top 10, featuring acts such as 'N Sync, Nelly Furtado, Creed and the Dave Matthews Band.\nBut don't look for chart-topping rap, hip-hop or metal acts. Scheduling, logistics and audience preferences, according to a concert organizer, have left those genres out in the cold.\n"The groups that are coming are groups people want to see," said Gail Seay, executive producer of the production team at Olympic Medals Plaza.\nThe plaza, in downtown Salt Lake, will host a nightly ceremony for medal winners of the day's events. \nFollowing the medal presentation, national headlining acts will take the stage for a concert. NBC will broadcast one song from each night's concert during its prime-time coverage.\nSeay said organizers decided to stage the nightly music events, officially called the Hallmark Olympic Celebration Concert series, as a way of lightening the atmosphere of the often serious medal presentation ceremony.\n"Music is so inspirational, so celebratory," Seay said. "We're hoping the athletes, the medal winners, will come and jam onstage with the bands every night, gold medals and everything."\n"It's a big party. It's, you know, 'Yahoo!'" Seay added.\nWhen booking acts to perform during the series, organizers claimed they tried to match specific sports with music that fit the demographics of both its athletes and audience.\n"We tried to mix it up as much as possible," Seay said. "We really looked at the sport and asked what kind of music would snowboarders want to hear, for example."\nApparently, boarders want to hear Smash Mouth. The southern California rock act, best known for such stadium-friendly anthems as "All Star," will perform Feb. 15, the same night as the medal presentations for two snowboarding events.\nMainstream rock monster Creed, which had a chokehold on the No. 1 spot on Billboard's charts for much of the holiday season, will perform Feb. 19, when medals are presented for short-track speedskating and freestyle skiing events.\nCountry favorites Brooks & Dunn are on tap for Feb. 16, the night of medal ceremonies for alpine skiing, speedskating and biathlon events.\nSeay admits that, in trying to land the biggest names to boost ratings, organizers sometimes were unable to match sports with the right act. Case in point: 'N Sync will serenade the winners of the men's slalom event Feb. 23.\n"A few nights didn't quite work out," Seay said.\nDespite organizers' attempts to book a range of genres, the lineup leans heavily toward mainstream rock and country. Notably absent are rap, hip-hop and metal acts, genres that regularly outsell country and give rock a run for its money.\nSeay did not comment directly on the dominance of network TV-friendly genres for the concert series, but did say that booking acts was contingent on availability and how popular they would be with the hometown crowd, who will make up the bulk of the concert and medal ceremony audiences.\n"A lot of tickets are being given out in Salt Lake, as a gift to local folks," Seay said.\nLocal tastes apparently also account for the decidedly American flavor of the acts performing. Native New Yorker Marc Anthony will inject a little salsa into the series, but the most exotically born headliner is Toronto's Barenaked Ladies.\nThe Games' opening ceremonies have a slightly more international flavor, with Sting and cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing -- although opening night's headliners are all country girls, namely LeAnn Rimes and the Dixie Chicks.\nSeay said the events of Sept. 11 had no impact on booking decisions for the opening ceremonies or concert series, or for the overall theme of this year's Olympiad, "Light the Fire Within"

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