December 30th, 2008
03:24 PM ET
9 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. G.R.I.T.S. - Girl Raised in the South

    Eileen Patterson said, "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."


    What a nasty woman you are. The people who supported Obama's presidency are not nasty. Many of them are educated, caring, professional people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Your comments make my stomach twist into knots. It is people like you who have systematically destroyed our great nation.

    As far as staying at home to watch the inauguration on television – how, exactly, does that equate to intelligence? Hundreds of thousands of Americans, perhaps millions, want to be present in D.C. to witness the historic swearing in of our first bi-racial President. P.E. Obama symbolizes the hope that we have as a people, that we can be better, that we can do better. Perhaps most of us can and will, but I doubt you will be included.

    December 30, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. Jon

    Oh. DC is going to be crowded. I clicked on this article with thet headline "Dire Warnings" making me think it was something serious – an issue of national concern. The price of bread and milk are more serious stories than this.

    December 30, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. Greg Shell

    Obama's supporters are not the ones we should be worried about. The level of ignorance and racial bias being displayed is really disheartening, but it does help with identification.

    December 30, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  4. I'll be there!


    The mall is ALWAYS open for pedestrians on Inauguration Day...and the ceremony is always open for non-ticket's democracy in action...why deny people the right to see this swearing-in when no one's been restricted before? They're just expecting more people than usual due to the historic ramifications of an Obama presidency. I didn't have a ticket for Clinton/Gore's first Inauguration, but I still had a great view and witnessed a part of American history...which is exactly why I'll be there in witness another piece of American history!

    December 30, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. Jon

    George – that's DC's local government, as inept and utterly incompetent as any in the nation!

    December 30, 2008 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. Wally

    Eileen, such venom.

    December 30, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Eileen...your comment is quite interesting. "Just think what DC will be like with port-a-potties up and down the streets, hot dog stands everywhere,people sleeping in boxes downtown"

    And just how is this different from DC any other regular day? I live in DC, and it's obvious you've never been to this strange and wonderful place.

    December 30, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. ggggg

    Don't come, please! I live here in DC. Our transportation system is bad now–it's only going to be worse when 2 million more people show up! it's not as if Obama or anyone on his team will notice if you show up or not. Seriously, how can you really want to subject yourself to the crowds, the traffic, the expense (bring a LOT of money if you plan to eat or sleep in this town), the cold weather, the stress, etc. just so you can say "I was there!" Who cares?!? If it's important to you that Obama is going to be President, that's great. But please don't add to the mess we are going to have just to be able to say you showed up. Stay home and watch it on TV with your friends. Have a party!

    December 30, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. Rob in NJ

    Obama has a lot of fans. He should be an actor in big-budget movies or maybe a rock-n-roll singer in a band or something, not the President.

    December 30, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*

    People– unless you have a hotel close in to the inaugural site (and I mean within easy walking distance), I would just stay at home and watch it on TV. The place is going to be a zoo. Transportation is going to be horrible. Save your yourself a boatload of headaches & frustrations and stay at home. The event will be historical whether you see it on TV or whether you are standing in a crowd of 200,000 angry frustrated tired people a mile from the event in the rain. Stay home and actually ENJOY it.

    This should be "Required Reading" for anyone thinking about going to DC that week:

    December 30, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  11. MP

    To Eileen and PatNY, it is being treated different than other inauguarations because it is different. Different and historic. It should remain open to anyone who wants to go, not just those lucky enough to get tickets. And as far as who will clean up after its over...probably the same people who do it any other time. When you have a large event outside, there is bound to be a need for clean up. Whether or not they are McCain supporters or Obama supporters is irrelevant. Get a grip.

    December 30, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. pam Eugene OR

    I would love to be there but I will be overjoyed to watch it from home.
    Eileen,I am sure your intellect would demand you be there if McCain/Palin were being sworn in. What a sore looser you are!

    December 30, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. Gary

    Glorious Chaos. Stay at home and watch this trainwreck live on TV.

    December 30, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. Lucas Hammonds

    God, people do not know what is in store for us in the coming years under Obama. So far he has proven everything we have thought of him. Already involved in scandal, and I do not care what his reports say. They tried to make Blogajavich into a crazy to disprove any possible remarks from him towards Obama. Now they are saying his reports are going to clear Blogajavich so not to push him into talking about Obama's involvement. He has shown he is not transparent, he does not have a hands off approach to reporters. So far, he is doing everything you hated about Bush and yet he is still the One.

    December 30, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. wish I could be there

    Lynne, Don't blame Eileen's bitterness on poor cats. I feed 10 cats daily, and I'm a very enthusiastic Obama supporter. I'll be crying for joy in front of the television holding one or two of them when our new president takes the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible. Eileen is just a poor loser. Many Republicans I know are wishing him well. They are Americans first, and Republicans second, like they should be.

    December 30, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  16. A GOP Faithful

    I hope Washington, D.C. gets two feet of snow the night before the inaguration and the temperature on the big day is in the teens.

    December 30, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. Jeff From Jersey

    Eileen You sure are the pot calling the kettle black.Are you another nasty republican with a scope sight hidden in your bible or just a fan of the Palin "Cooking with Snowballs" or "How to Shoot Something Because You Can Comedy Hour" television shows on FOX?In either case STAY HOME!Better yet MOVE TO IRAQ.I here they are really fond of american women.

    December 30, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. TCM

    I wonder if the hype would've been there had it been a white guy, who didn't buy the white house through a sea of corruption?

    It's not historic, it's a shame that our country has stooped to the level it has and placed such an incompetent, corrupt, self-centered individual at the highest seat. It's all glitter and showboating; and when the real tests begin, you libs will see what fools you've been to vote in such inexperience.

    December 30, 2008 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  19. Take their advice

    This is going to be a real mess and an unfair black mark against Obama. The transportation and sanitary infrastructure can't handle 1-2 million people on the National Mall. It's a physical impossibility. At the very least, people will be inconvenienced and annoyed. At worst, there could be very serious problems.
    STAY HOME & watch on TV.

    December 30, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  20. Larry in Houston

    I guess I don't have to say anything after I read what G.R.I.T.S.
    says.....she says it all, and puts it in a perfect perspective.....

    I rest my case....

    Houston, Texas

    December 30, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. Bob Denver


    December 30, 2008 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. Ken Sawyer

    He should take the money wasted on the festivities and help the poor with all the promises he has made. If he wants to make a good impression on the public find our where the money went that we have just given away to the thieves in big business for their golden parachutes.They have made the biggest fools out of the congress who fell for theri poormouthing.

    December 30, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. george

    What do you expect of a man who thinks he is God?? What a waste of money!

    December 30, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. Jeff From Jersey

    Eileen Patterson Does this mean you'd like to have it at your house?We promise we won't use your pool as a port-a-potty,just the back of your 3 SUV'S for privacy.We don't want your neighbors to complain.
    Who knows,you might even find a stray $100 or 2.We dont want the DAR to think we're going to go republican over this whole thing.We'll share with you.

    December 30, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. Andy

    Come forth and bless us, messiah

    December 30, 2008 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
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