December 30th, 2008
03:24 PM ET
5 years ago

Inauguration organizers describe day-long endurance test

Preparations are non-stop for the January 20 event.
Preparations are non-stop for the January 20 event.

(CNN) - There are still a host of question marks around next month’s inauguration festivities, but one thing is undeniable: the day may be geared less to your average middle schooler, and more to a field-tested U.S. Marine.

In the latest blunt advisory released Monday, the presidential inaugural committee said ticket-holders for President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony will need to arrive no fewer than three hours before the outdoor ceremony’s scheduled 11:30 a.m. start time.

But getting there in the first place poses a logistical challenge that’s not for the faint of heart or limb. Despite a new plan to turn big sections of the city into parking lots for charter buses and a peak rush hour schedule plan for the city’s Metro system, most cars and buses are unlikely to be allowed to enter the city, let alone the designated two-mile security zone around the swearing-in site.

Metro officials warn that riders will be underground with “thousands” of fellow visitors – meaning that even those lucky enough to make it onto the platform will face lengthy wait times before they see the inside of a packed train car.

Attendees forced to abandon their cars for mass transit might want to start a Stairmaster schedule now: transportation officials have warned that capacity crowds may force them to turn off the system’s escalators – making the trip back above ground an ambitious workout.

If all the dire predictions are tempting visitors to swear off transportation altogether in favor of an old-fashioned hike – well, that’s sort of the point. Officials are advising everyone within two miles of the Capitol – and those from further points who are up for the trek - to walk to the site.

Of course, not everyone is in any condition for a miles-long slog through East Coast January weather. But organizers warned Monday that “traffic conditions and restrictions” may make reaching drop-off points for disabled guests “extremely difficult.”

“There will be designated areas for people with disabilities in each of the ticketed seating areas on the Capitol grounds, however these areas are limited in size and available on a first-come first-served basis,” read the advisory. “Persons in wheelchairs or utilizing walkers should be aware that they will need to move across bumpy surfaces, grassy areas, and possible icy areas (depending on the weather).”

Those worried about how their child may handle the hike might want to leave them behind: strollers are unwelcome altogether. And everyone might want to cross their fingers for a dry day - umbrellas are verboten too.

If you’ve overestimated your own toughness, don’t count on being able to call for help: “Be aware that it may be difficult to talk” because of an overloaded communication system. “Please use text messaging to send critical messages.”

Worried about your ability to handle the day-long endurance test? So’s the inaugural committee. “Please think carefully about whether you can stand outside in cold weather in a large crowd for up to six hours” - and “whether you are ready for long delays getting home afterwards,” they said.

Officials have said they expect 1-2 million visitors to travel to the National Mall on Inauguration Day.


Filed under: Inauguration • Popular Posts
soundoff (331 Responses)
  1. Michael

    IF WE AREN'T SELF-IMPORTANT IDIOTS, I DON'T KNOW WHAT. I HAVE NO PROBLEM IF THIS ECONOMY WAS UPRIGHT BUT I'M SURE OBAMA WOULD AGREE THAT WE NIX THE WHOLE CEREMONY AND SAVE TAX MONEY.

    December 30, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. Mike Cap

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    December 30, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  3. therealmarie

    Despite the constant negative comments and complaints from the MSM, I would crawl through a field of snakes to be there on such a historical day. MSM, makes their money on everything negative and "No We Can't" is their motto. Enough of this garbage. We will soon have more than enough real life negative goings on, let the population, who truly cares about our nations great accomplishment, have a moment of pure positive celebration, Please!

    December 30, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Thed Weller

    If one doesn't have a "ticket" will there still be "1st come 1st serve" places to stand?...I wonder....hmmmm

    December 30, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  5. Kurt

    I see the " you may want to stay at home" on inauguration day warnings are starting to finally hit the national news.

    December 30, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  6. Kirk Kalvar

    I live in DC and although it would be cool why deal with the headache? How about the risk invovled? Great location, big event, big crowds are just what some nut job needs to make a statement.

    December 30, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. AB

    Like football, baseball, NASCAR and any sport for that matter. Don't waste the time and money watch it on TV.

    December 30, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. Pete

    Hey, it's a small sacrafice to see the Messiah.

    December 30, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  9. carol

    I'm sure it will be considerable task for all involved and I hope it all runs smoothly.....but thousands will want to be part of this very historic moment.
    I would love to be able to go there, it would be great....I just wish the people who are lucky enough to go, good luck and have a wonderful time and best wishes to PE Obama and his family all the very best for that day.
    New President and a new start for this country.

    December 30, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. naqib

    I think I'll enjoy watching it on TV... nice and warm... cup of coffee.
    Don't see the point in freezing for multiple hours to only hear it over a PA system...

    December 30, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  11. ran

    So much for an open gov.

    December 30, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  12. Miller BD

    Even though being at this historic event in person may be important to a lot of people...Me and my family are going to do the smart thing and stay home and watch the event on CNN. I just dont beleive anything is worth the traffic, crowds, cold, lack of bathrooms. My tv and the warmth of my home will be fine. And I live 15 min from DC.

    December 30, 2008 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  13. CanIcallyouJoe

    I don't live anywhere near D.C, so I regret that I can't be a part of this. I'll be watching it on TV for sure, though!

    Kudos to those willing to brave the crowds and weather for this historic event!

    December 30, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  14. Diane from Plantation FL

    It might have been a good thought to rent out domed stadiums in each major city so people would have had a place to stay and eat and go to the restroom – and be able to see and hear this historical event much better – via jumbo screens – than standing in the cold with no place to stay, or food, or restrooms – and seeing or hearing nothing. Certainly, the Obama election chest had enough money for that. I would think young children (and their parents) and those who are disabled would have been grateful.

    December 30, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  15. jayeandvic@aol.com

    I am soooooooooooo looking forward to the inauguration – to Obama being our new president and to the history our country is making.
    God Bless the USA!

    December 30, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  16. jojodancer1119

    I'll be there rain, sleet, or shine~!!!!

    December 30, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  17. Ray Fisher

    I believe in the less is more theory ergo a simple wearing in during a joint session of Congress would suffice with a motorcade to the White House afterward. This is not the time to celebrate nor incur expenses. President Obama will need time to gain the advantage over naysayers so that he can earn their respect.

    December 30, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  18. EW

    Improvise, overcome, adapt. If you can't walk a couple of miles or climb a couple of flights of stairs you have bigger things to worry about than how you are going to get to the ceremony, real disabilities aside.

    Getting in shape will cost you less in health care and at the grocery store plus you will feel much better and have more energy.

    December 30, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  19. walleye

    I will enjoy watching the Inauguaration on my TV and not having to deal with the DC weather and crowds.

    December 30, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  20. Charlie in Maine

    No. The last eight years have been an endurance test. Can't wait for the Bush Error to be ended so the Obama Era can begin.

    December 30, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. Matt in CT

    Jeez, this article makes the Inauguration prep sound like the 1950s duck and cover drills. Next, signs will be posted warning people to "Prepare to run for your lives"

    Stick to TV, you'll get a better seat and hopefully a much cleaner toilet.

    December 30, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. patNY

    Which is why the Mall should not have been open for public viewing, and the event kept at managable level as all prior inaugurals. I voted for Obama, but don't feel his inaugural should be treated any differently than prior ones – keep it to ticket holders and only those who can get into the limited area in front of the capital. The Mall will be destroyed by the crowds. Who's gonna pay to fix it all up?

    December 30, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. Eileen Patterson

    The inauguration event itself promises to prove what a nasty bunch of people supported Obama's presidency. Just think what DC will be like with port-a-potties up and down the streets, hotdog stands everywhere,people sleeping in boxes downtown. This will show the level of intelligence of those supporters who could see the whole thing on TV comfortably in their homes. Maybe they think Obama is going to throw $100 bills at them during the parade? Then again, maybe he will.

    December 30, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  24. Rev. Wright

    I've got an invitation. Don't tell anyone.

    December 30, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  25. Raina E.

    I have a question–when is CNN going to stop writing misleading headlines?

    "Dire warnings from inaguration team?" Over-exaggerate much?

    December 30, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
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