Hide the torch. The symbol of Atlanta's next big Olympic event is a great, glittery spinning wheel.
Pat Sajak, Vanna White and "Wheel of Fortune" hit Atlanta this month to tape three weeks' worth of programs as an official game show of the Summer Olympics.
To some, it is a letter-perfect example of how the name of the Games has become money. For the first time, Atlanta organizers have sold official sponsorship rights to television game shows -- "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!"
"People make light of it," acknowledged Lisa Dee, "Wheel of Fortune" special projects coordinator. "And we all have a good sense of humor. But we take it very seriously. We're a sponsor in the same way GM is a sponsor." But has General Motors, or any other Olympic sponsor, ever boasted a 1,500-pound wheel and a television audience of 100 million a week? Four 48-foot tractor-trailers will bring the "Wheel of Fortune" set to Atlanta's Fox Theater for three days of taping starting March 29. The shows will air April 22-26, April 29-May 3 and July 15-18. The set will be decorated with Olympic images, and many prizes will come from Olympic sponsors.
Brian Murphy, publisher of the Sports Marketing Letter, said the public, accustomed to heavy product advertising and marketing at sports events, probably doesn't give a hoot. REEVE AT PARALYMPICS: Christopher Reeve, the actor paralyzed in a fall during an equestrian event in Virginia, will be the master of ceremonies at the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremonies. Organizers of the event for athletes with disabilities also said yesterday that soul singer Aretha Franklin would perform at the ceremonies, and that President Clinton would attend. Details of the Aug. 15 Opening Ceremonies were released at a news conference to announce tickets to the Games will go on sale Sunday through Ticketmaster. Ticket prices range from $100 (best seats at opening and closing ceremonies) to $10 (least-expensive seats at some events). The Paralympic Games run Aug. 15 through Aug. 25.