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Share and chair alike... Helmut's G8 demands.

IT'S the biggest secret of the G8 summit.

Giant German leader Helmut Kohl made world leaders play musical chairs - so he could save face.

Mr Kohl, German Chancellor when the summit was held in May, weighs an enormous 23 stone.

And this posed a huge problem for NEC officials organising the gala concert at Birmingham's Symphony Hall, which rounded off the three-day meeting.

They realised he would never fit into a normal seat.

So they arranged for the Foreign Office to provide a specially reinforced one, allowing Mr Kohl to enjoy top British acts like All Saints in comfort.

But the German leader got wind of their plans, and insisted all eight world leaders - and their spouses - be provided with the same super seats.

Diplomats had to rush in another 15 of them so Mr Kohl would not stand out from the crowd - at a cost of thousands of pounds.

The amazing request has only now been revealed by NEC sources - who say it was the most difficult moment of the entire high-powered conference.

Chancellor Kohl is also believed to have sent scouts to Birmingham before the event, with orders to find a hotel where the beds were strong enough to take his weight.

The summit bought together statesmen including Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Tony Blair.

It gave the region a pounds 12 million boost as hotels and other businesses served thousands of advisers, security staff, journalists and political groups holding protests. And a city council campaign to promote the virtues of Birmingham reached millions of people across the globe, according to marketing experts.

An NEC source said: "This was the biggest event Birmingham had ever seen - and it was essential to get everything right.

"It would have been a disaster if Herr Kohl had been unable to sit down.

"But we were amazed when he demanded everyone else should have the same seat.

"We immediately began to arrange for new chairs to be fitted. It was a delicate situation which could have affected international relations."
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 27, 1998
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