Executives of Atlanta's Turner Broadcasting System and Soviet sports and television officials met here a few weeks ago to begin final preparations for the Goodwill Games.
With much of the post-Geneva U.S.-Soviet goodwill gone sour, and the balance sheet threatening to go into the red, these games -- to take place July 5-20 -- promise to be less of a boost to U.S.-Soviet relations or a commercial bonanza than a king-sized sports event.
Perhaps even Olympic-sized: world record holders such as Americans Edwin Moses and Carl Lewis, East Germany's Marita Koch and the Soviets' Sergei Bubka are expected to compete here -- on tracks and at other facilities constructed for the 1980 Moscow Games.
Turner's executives and Soviet sports, television and foreign ministry officials have found preparing for the two-week event a lesson in superpower compromise.
By itself, the concept of the Goodwill Games is an awkward marriage of Soviet and American interests, dreamed up by broadcast executive Ted Turner and sponsored jointly by TBS and the U.S.S.R. committees for television and radio and sports.
For the Soviet hosts, the gathering of 4,000 athletes from 56 countries is a bid to recapture the prestige they -- and the Olympics -- lost because of the United States-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games and the retaliatory boycott the Kremlin organized against the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
As they completed plans for the Goodwill Games, Soviet officials here have abandoned their protests against the comparisons between this summer's international meet and the Olympics.
"My deep feeling is that the Goodwill Games are part of the Olympic movement," Henrikas Yushkiavitshus, vice president of Gostelradio, one of the sponsors, said in an interview here. "If it were not for the Olympics, the Goodwill Games could never take place."
Said an editor for the Moscow newspaper Sovietskii Sport: "It's proof that we can pull off a major international sports event without the help of the Olympic committee."
For Turner, the games are as much a diplomatic venture as a sports and commercial project.
As Robert Wussler, TBS executive vice president, said in an interview here: "Turner wanted to do something for mankind. His impetus in doing this is to do something for the world, to get us all talking."
The quadrennial games will be held in the United States in 1990. The choice of the host city has been narrowed to Atlanta or Seattle, according to Turner executives.
Planning the details of the games required fast talking from both sides.
The Soviets, who ordinarily are quick to speak out in support of their idea of amateurism, have tuned out reports that some of the U.S. participants will be offered paticularly large sums for pre-games advertising.
Asked about the matter, Yushkiavitshus said: "I don't think we can change the capitalist system," and added, "I don't want to interfere in the problems of American sports. But I hope that the Goodwill Games will never become games where commercialization is most important."
And yet, Soviet officials have apparently yielded to pressure from U.S. sponsors to allow pop singer Michael Jackson to appear at the opening ceremonies.
Jackson has come under attack in the Soviet press as an example of western decadence. Tourists here have reported that Soviet customs agents have confiscated tapes of Jackson's music.
The U.S. side also made compromises, according to Wussler. Despite Wussler's and Turner's efforts to gain invitations for South Korea and Israel, the Soviet Union rejected them as participants. Moscow does not have diplomatic relations with either country.
"Those countries will be invited to the 1990 games in the United States ," Wussler said.
Moscow also flatly rejected Wendy's and Miller Lite as advertising sponsors for the games, Turner executives said, apparently for political reasons.
A Wendy's commercial on U.S. television mocks the concept of Soviet fashion tastes and the idea of freedom of choice in the U.S.S.R.
A Miller Lite commercial features a Soviet emigre comedian explaining the difference between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.: "Here you can always find a party; there, the party finds you."
Soviet officials declined comment on the commercials.
So far, TBS has gained only six commercial sponsors for the games, including Pepsi, Mars candy bars, Stroh's beer and Gillette, instead of the target of 25.
The reason, Wussler explained, is current tensions between the United States and the U.S.S.R.
"Libya hasn't helped and Chernobyl hasn't helped," he said, referring to the U.S. antiterrorist moves and the nuclear plant accident.
TBS has scaled back its hoped-for number of sponsors to 20.
TBS has contributed $35 million toward the games. Wussler said that the games would cost $100 million in an American city, but Soviet officials declined to estimate the total costs here.
In the two years of negotiations for the games, Wussler shuttled between Atlanta and Moscow 20 times, haggling with Soviet officials all the way.
Screaming matches were part of the script. Last year, Wussler said, when the Soviet officials were demanding a cash outlay of $50 million from TBS, "I had to yell loudly that we were prepared to leave the country and walk away from the project unless they would accept a reasonable figure.
"They finally said $7.5 million and I said fine. That took six weeks."
In the end, both sides agreed that the biggest appeal of the games were the contests.
"We're putting up our best athletes," said Nikolai Rusak, first deputy chairman of the Soviet sports committee in an interview, "and we insist that all the participating countries also send their best."
So far, so good. The United States is sending some 580 athletes, including the likes of Lewis, Moses and Valerie Brisco-Hooks.
East Germany, another sports powerhouse, is fielding the third-biggest team, after the U.S.S.R. and the United States, with 150 men and women.
As host, the Soviet Union will have the biggest team and will certainly put forward its superstars: swimmer Vladimir Salnikov, gymnast Elena Shushunova, high jumper Tamara Bykova, weightlifter Yuri Sarkisyan.
And the U.S.S.R. is apparently planning a few surprises, too.
"They have a hurdler who they think can beat Edwin Moses' world record," Wussler said. "We'll see."