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Billboards Stink Unless They're Yours

Up Front: OLYMPICS `96


Atlanta's Olympic Committee doesn't want any ugly billboards around for the 1996 Summer Games--unless the Olympics benefits. The group is backing plans to erect 50 "super signs" in downtown Atlanta, each higher than a nine-story building, to peddle the wares of Olympic sponsors and others. Irony: The committee recently helped write a 76-page city law banning new outdoor advertising and other "visual pollution" before the extravaganza. Already, the committee has unveiled its tasteful banners, which will be ubiquitous in 1996.

When a billboard company this summer trimmed trees downtown that were blocking its signs, committee members protested this aesthetic affront. And the group helped force one of its own sponsors, Sara Lee, to black out billboards, costing $900,000, near the Olympic Stadium during the games.

But the Olympian standards fall when it comes to the super signs, which the city council is expected to O.K. "We are already one of the most billboard-inundated cities in the country," complains city Planning Commissioner Leon Eplan, who nonetheless backs the super-sign plan.

The committee says there is

no contradiction: The signs will have to impart an Olympic-related "activity or principle." And commercial messages would be limited to one-fifth of

the space on each sign.

That's "only" a 22-foot-by-8-foot space.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER By David Greising

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