SUMMER GAMES SPOTLIGHT : BARCELONA '92 OLYMPICS : SPEAKING INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE: COMMERCIALS

Newsday

The four little boys clamored around the cooler at the back of a small, crowded store on Rambla de Cataluna, a block removed from the bustle and tourists along Las Rambla. They sell everything in this place, and it stays open late, which the natives think quite odd, so they call it an American store. One orange soda and three Cokes, the youngsters decided.

"What does Michael Jordan drink?" the American reporter asked.

The four looked at each other and instantly exchanged bright, mischievous smiles. The answer comes in a full, gleeful chorus: "Gatorade!" The sound you hear is ad men fainting to the floor in ecstasy. However, the store does not sell Gatorade.

No matter. Daniel Casabella, 11, trots along with his Coke in hand, singing delightfully to himself in a mixture of his natural Catalan and the Spanish he speaks for company. The translation was easy:

"I want to be like Mike.

I want to be like Mike.

Just like Mike."

Daniel Casabella knows something more. His favorite team is the Lakers, his favorite player Magic Johnson. He knows others. "(James) Worthy," he said. "And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to play for them."

He knows that Magic has a problem. "He got sick because of using drugs," Daniel said.

Using drugs?

"All the people know he got sick because of using drugs," Daniel said. "It was on television."

Oriol Selma, also 11, wishes to correct his friend. But he hesitates, embarrassed at the presence of his teacher and the school's director in the room. He gathers his courage and speaks nonetheless.

"Magic Johnson got AIDS (virus) because he was with too many other people," Oriol said, wise enough to know what he is saying.

This is the first of a daily roundup of Olympic-related items from reporters in Barcelona from the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant, all Times-Mirror newspapers.

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