December 30th, 2008
03:24 PM ET
6 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. William A. Schaedler from St. Louis

    Why can't this event be held privately in a secluded location without television coverage and endless commentary? It is a simple ceremony and is only immensely meaningful to the participants. We do not need this gaudy display of arrogance.

    December 30, 2008 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Hope

    My advise, stay home watch it on TV.

    December 30, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  3. S Callahan

    That's good they have those protective measures not only for the President to be but also the public.
    Best solution, buy a good pair of walking sneakers.

    December 30, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. JohnT

    Given the dire economic condition the country finds itself in, does it really make sense to spend millions of dollars to stage this elaborate celebration? Why not just swear President-elect Obama in with a simple ceremony in Congress and cover it on all of the network and cable news channels? That's where most of the population of the nation will see it anyway. There was already one monster celebration on election night in Chicago, so what's the point? Spend the money on something else and let the man get on with dealing with all the problems facing him.

    December 30, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  5. proudliberal-independent

    "The middle way is no way at all. If we finally fail in this great and glorious contest, it will be by bewildering ourselves in groping for the middle way." -John Adams, 1776

    we should have elected Kucinich. we need bold leadership, not wimpy appeasers to the right wingers.

    December 30, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  6. AJ

    1-2 million spectators? Do you think that will feed Obama's overwhelming ego sufficiently for a while or are we going to have to have taxpayer lovefests every month so the great on can be worshipped?

    December 30, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. Ben

    This looks like a party that I was not planning on attending in the first place. Looks like a lot of people should reconsider if they had plans on being there. It will be on TV and not worth dying for to just be there and maybe not being able to see or hear much of what is going on anyway.

    December 30, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. LJRoy

    No worries here. I wouldn't attend even if it was held in my own backyard!!!

    December 30, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  9. BUSH BEGONE AND NOW 75% OF AMERICANS FINALLY AGREE!

    I do wish all the attendees the best and hope they bring a lot of patience, but I am sure the festivites will be well worth the wait..

    December 30, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  10. bj

    Why anyone would bother to go to the inauguration of Obama is beyond me. Just more rhetoric to listen to after the swearing in. Six months later starts the swearing at, when people fiigure out the this guy has no clue.

    December 30, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  11. Faye in Tucson

    Our society is geared by limitations in cars, buses, theaters, elevators, eating establishments, movies, night clubs, etc. for the safety and welfare of the people. IMO, this Inauguration is an accident waiting to happen and all for the sake of greed. Regardless of how historical an event this is, it would have made more sense to limit the number of people in attendance due to concerns for safety and unexpected turn of events (like a last minute snow storm, ice storm or even a heavy rain storm) than to try and expand services and facilities to meet the demand of those wanting to attend.

    This Inauguration may end up being historical and hysterical due to lack of common sense and the inability of establishing limitations regardless of requests or demands.

    December 30, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  12. Alice

    Well worth every grueling minute . . . sure wish I could be there!

    December 30, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. LENA M. LACEWELL

    It woud be worth it just to be in the number. What I would give just to see our 44th President and his family receiving the oath and then Barack accepting the oath and becoming our 44th President of the United States of America. Halellujah!! What a blessing!!

    December 30, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. LENA M. LACEWELL

    I really don't think it will be as bad as the exaggeration, we just can't listen to CNN and the other hatters and just go for youself and pray for Barack and his family and just have a C E L E B R A T I O N because we have so much to celebrate.

    December 30, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. George

    This is another sorry example of the adage that if you want something screwed up – put a Congressional Committee in charge.

    Every year NYC packs a million plus folk into Times Square on New Year's Eve. It does so without dire alarmist warnings and anyone who has ever gone there can tell you that the authorities have the crowd control down to a science.

    Perhaps if the Inauguration Committee had invited NYPD's participation (something they deliberately refused to do) they might have gotten some expert, experienced help in managing large, excited and enthusiastic crowds.

    It's not too late to relocate the Inauguration to TSQ. We can even reuse The Ball and have it drop and flash out Barack Obama's name at 12 Noon on the 20th.

    December 30, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Margie

    Rain or shine, Iam planning on attending. Flying in from Mid-West.

    December 30, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. McCain

    This wouldn't have been a problem if I had won.

    December 30, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. Tom in S.A.

    Why not just watch it on T.V.?? You'll have a much better view, won't put the strain on first responders, keep your toes warm, you'll have a place to go to the bathroom. I can see it now, thousands of little old ladies suffering out there. But don't worry, somehow it'll just be Bush's fault, not the idiots that go out there. I hope a blizzard hits the area.

    December 30, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. Mike

    Eileen - WOW - your ignorance is off the charts. Then again, you probably like Bush/McCain, in which case that explains your ignorance and your desire to insult the 66 million Americans who disagree with you.

    December 30, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. Lynne

    Why all the bitterness Eileen?? LMAO...go feed your 10 cats.

    December 30, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. Erik

    Raina- it's "exaggerate." Adding the word "over" is redundant.

    December 30, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. Big C

    This is NOT a big deal. Another presidential innaguration...whoopee!
    This just goes to show you what democrats really stand for...(I don't really think they know either)

    I think the best seat in the house...will be a seat IN the house, my house!

    December 30, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. dobblea

    Be safe. All of you. And Gid Bless.

    December 30, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  24. dobblea

    God bless.

    December 30, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  25. change, anyone got spare change?

    I'm surprised B.O. isn't having this inauguration down by the Reflecting Pool; since this man's ego has no limits, it would be easier to see himself at that location...plus, then he could baptize people while He's out there.

    All jokes aside–how does a man who says "no more Washington as usual" and "time to quit living on the high hog"–have the largest, most expensive, grandiose party in the history of party's?? All the while telling people it's tough out there and it's going to be awhile before we turn things around? His Democratic Congress (Pelosi, et al) scolds car makers for unwise spending, yet he's got double the MILLIONS going towards his own swearing in Party??

    Yeah, he's about change–the extra change in yo pocket.

    December 30, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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