The lingering symbol of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games--the statues of two nude, headless athletes at the peristyle entrance of the Coliseum--will remain undraped during the start of the Olympic torch relay Saturday morning.
Contradicting a report in The Times, officials of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which is organizing the 84-day, 15,000-mile torch relay across the United States, said Thursday that the committee did not ask Coliseum officials to garb the anatomically correct, 25-foot-high bronze statues in fig leaves, clothing or anything else.
"The statues are an integral part" of the stage setting and the ceremony, said Hilary Hanson, director of the torch relay for the committee.
But one Atlanta Games official close to the situation, who asked not to be identified, reiterated that the cover-up had been planned, only to be reversed Thursday morning as a "damage control" effort.
When reporters arrived at the Coliseum on Thursday, they found the statues wrapped--and not by the artist Christo. The plastic, removed later in the morning, "was only put on them to protect them from bird droppings," said Coliseum marketing director John Lee.
Atlanta Games spokesman Jeremy Kehoe said the statues "will not be covered" this weekend.
The possible fig-leafing drew reactions of outrage Thursday from Los Angeles city officials, art experts, civil libertarians and the sculptor himself, internationally known artist Robert Graham.
"The Greek athletes started out nude in the Olympics," said Graham, speaking from his Venice art studio. "It's nothing I invented."
Graham said any decision to alter the "Gateway," as the sculpture is known, would be particularly sad because it is so much a part of Olympic history.
"It makes the connection between the 1932 and 1984 Olympics," he said. "And now they are having the torch run from the Coliseum to Atlanta. It gives you a certain kind of tie that's very lacking in our society anymore."
Al Nodal, general manager of the city's Cultural Affairs Department, said a garbed "Gateway" is "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"I spoke to the mayor about it and we're all totally very, very supportive of that piece and would fight very hard for it to stay there for the weekend and forever."
Robert J. Fitzpatrick, who as director of the Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival commissioned the sculpture, acknowledged that the "Gateway" was controversial from the start. Although the statues were portrayed on a commemorative Olympic silver dollar, he said, they were turned so that their genders remained unidentifiable due to concerns raised by then-President Ronald Reagan and then-U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan, sister of Pat Buchanan, the conservative presidential candidate.
"I think it's dumb and demonizing," said Fitzpatrick, now dean of the School of the Arts at Columbia University. "It sort of suggests the body is evil."
Times staff writer Emi Endo also contributed to this story.
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Carrying the Torch
After it arrives in Los Angeles from Greece on Saturday, runners will carry the Olympic torch through Koreatown, downtown, Chinatown, north into the valley, southwest to Santa Monica and through South Bay on its way to the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Some activites planned along the route:
1. 9:30- 10:30 a.m.- Los Angeles Coliseum. Kickoff ceremony. 10:30 a.m.-Relay begins.
2. 10:30-11:40 a.m.-St. Sophia Cathedral, Normandie and Pico, Mayor of Athens participates in blessing of relay; Greek music, dancing.
3. 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Koreatown Stage, Olympic Boulevard, one block west of Vermont. Tae kwon do, other entertainment.
4. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.- Pershing Square. Salute to community heros, with jazz, Korean ribbon dancers, children's games, mariachis.
5. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.- Hollenbeck Park, St. Louis and 4th. Olympic memorabilia, pin trading, games. L.A. Wings professional cyclists leave from here to lead caravan to Elysian Park.
6. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.- Olvera Street, Mariachis, ballet folklorico, music from the Andes, Aztec dancers.
7. 12:30- 1:30 p.m.- Chinatown, Broadway and Sunset. Lion dances by students.
8. 1-2:30 p.m.-Elysian Park, Sunset near Avenue of the Athletes. L.A. Dodgers street festival.
9. 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.-Burbank, Parade from Olive and Lincoln to Izay Park, followed by family festival.
10. 4:48 p.m.-Mann's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood High School band, group in native costumes from St. Petersburg, Russia.
11. 4-6 p.m.-West Hollywood, Tower Records east parking lot, 8801 Sunset. Block party with bands, giveaways. Bring two cans of food for L.A. Regional Food Bank.
12. 4-6:30 p.m.-Beverly Hills, Rodeo and Dayton. Food, children's choir.
13. 5:30-6:45 p.m.-UCLA, Ueberroth Building, LeConte Avenue. Student rally.
14. 6:30-9:30 p.m.-Santa Monica Pier. Olympic flame lighting ceremony, appearances by Olympians.
15. 3-6 p.m.-Downtown Manhattan Beach. Street fair.
16. 10 a.m.-11 p.m.-Hermosa Beach Pier. Street fair.
17. 6:30 p.m.-1:10 a.m.-Belmont Shore, Long Beach. Torch walk. Ceremony at 6:45 p.m. at Blair Field.
* Times are estimattes of when torch will pass through an area.
Source: Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games