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

Inauguration organizers describe day-long endurance test

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. b/augusta

    There is no question the press is trying to freighten people away. There are those who have made up their minds to attend the event, and no bad press coverage, rain, sleet or snow will keep them away.
    Lets pray for Obama and our nation.

    December 30, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. Bruce

    I didn't vote for him, but my prayers and support are with him. We all need to pray for security and protection as our 44th president takes the oath of office.

    I wish it were a little smaller, not because I desire any less support for Mr. Obama, but I cringe at the security nightmare that will be there.

    May he be protected and provided for, and may his move into the Oval Office be successful.

    God bless Barack Obama, and God bless the USA.

    December 30, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. Pete

    it's a small sacrafice to see the Messiah.

    December 30, 2008 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Marc in Virginia

    I'm happily renting out 2 rooms in my Northern VA home for about a $1000/night to some ignorant Obamabots. Thanks for sharing your wealth.

    December 30, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. Ken Sawyer

    Look who is running DC and you might understand all the confusion.

    December 30, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  6. Sandy C.

    I will be there to celebrate the swearing in of a President who identifies with those of us Americans who were forgotten the past 8 years! Frankly, I wish George W. and his rich friends would leave Washington before PEBO takes the oath of office. Just seeing George makes me sick to my stomach! Good riddance to a complete idiot and failure.

    December 30, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. Sandy C.

    To TCM... Please, you self-righteous individual – you truly believe that the Bush administration did not buy the Presidency in 2000? It just goes to show that the right-wing Southern Christian idiots still exist in America. Hopefully, you will all stay in your homes read some books on history... Your stupidity is what we Americans can no longer tolerate.

    December 30, 2008 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  8. Matt: honestly

    TCM you will eat those words. You will be shown how wrong you are.

    December 30, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. Sheri

    Amen JohnT

    December 30, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. Fred NH

    wow, so many people still bitter and resentful.
    you people need to get over it.
    the most historic inauguration in our life-time and all you can do is vent.
    This is not the time or place for therse comments.
    You moaners have two choices: get on the bus and embrace change or..........

    December 30, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  11. Kristen

    My thoughts on this are:
    1) This is a slap in the face to the last 43 presidents, good, bad, or indifferent. Here we go with the "special" parameters.
    2) Anyone who would bring a young child into that crowd without resources to properly provide for that child for a 6 hour period should be slapped with charges of child abuse-hands down there is no excuse whatsoever to put a child in harms way for them to "witness history" regardless!
    3) Mr Arrogance/the New Messiah/Socialist by Definition seems to have a blatant disregard for the 50+ million of us that did not, do not and me personally-will not support this man or his administration-we are not ALL celebrating so please do not continue to inconvenience the rest of the population of the U.S.
    4) Do keep in mind your future president's response or lack thereof to the events (potentially the start of World War III) of this past weekend, as he has no problem preaching about what he wants to change and cramming the media with speeches like he is already president, but yet when briefed on this potentially catastrophic reality, he hid behind the cloak of "there can only be one president at a time." Granted, Bush hasn't said much either, however, he is not cramming his speeches down our throats promising change either.

    December 30, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. Apples for sale

    Its good for the Local and overall economy.Its also good that the largest amount of people get to attend,since main street has been totally left out of having a say in anything the past 8 years while Wallstreet ran this economy into the ground.If you want to be mad about something get mad at Bernacki and the Fed for the theft of about 2 trillion dollars.You cry about a car loan to the big 3,but gave the robber barons a blank check.And while were at it,I see the covered up the Mike Connell story with all this other low grade bs.

    December 30, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. Common Sense

    Why do you want to be there? Are you the same people that buy the Obama coin? Obama's swearing in is historical: the biggest mistake Americans have made in a long time. No, it is not racial bias. It is common sense. He has made promises he cannot keep and has openly lied. I am not an expert in politics, but I do have a PhD in environmental engineering so I am not a total idiot. Even if I was, I have common sense. Common sense says stay away from the inauguration fiasco. It is one too many big parties for the "Savior". Use your brain people. I know you have one.

    December 30, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. daniel

    Presidential inaugurations should cost millions of's one of the most historic events of the world. If I were president, I would want to make sure everything was taken care of from top notch vendors. Taxpayers do NOT pay for the inauguration, it's all donations. I am going, I already have confirmed tickets from my State Rep and I am paying almost $1,000 per room (3 rooms) per night but, guess what, I don't care, it's very important to me that I attend and take all that want to go.

    December 30, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  15. Lars

    Mike, yes, 66 million voted for Obama BUT 57 million did not AND there were 27% of Americans who did not vote. That means that more than 66 million people were NOT in full support of Obama. Hardly a landslide like many libs throw out there, so please, no GOP bashing ok? I wish Mr. Obama well as we are all Americans here and I respect all those that want to be there for the event. GOD BLESS AMERICA IN 2009 and beyond!

    December 30, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  16. JP

    Did Dubya cut back on his second swearing in ceremony because American soldiers were dying in a war he started and we were spending billions of dollars to repair Iraq's infrastructure after the shock and awe wore off?

    December 30, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  17. Kristen

    TCM you are so right! Also, clearly those tests began to begin over the weekend.

    December 30, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. JIM

    It is absolute insanity to attend the inaugaration. What could you hope to see? It will be like watching a flea on a dog given the distance most everyone will be from the actual swearing-in.

    December 30, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. Mom in CA many people think that Obama somehow staged this "multi-million dollar" event like he planned it. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that the actual amount of tickets is probably not much more than usual. All the planned events are the same ones that have occured through many, many previous inaugurations. What's happened is that so many people want to see such a historical event, that the Inaugural Commitee is spending the money trying to prevent anything bad from happening, and I thank them for it! You can't forbid people from traveling to DC, it's a public place! And I'm sure many of the people who will be there were NOT Obama supporters, too. Fact is, it's a historical event in our lifetime and we want to be there, my son and I included. No matter who you voted for, it's still an incredible time in US history, and my son will be able to tell his granchilren how he was there – one out of 1-2 million who witnessed change for America. How can that ever be a bad thing?? Oh, and I'm not "nasty" either – in fact, I don't have anything to say at all to people who feel the need to throw insults. I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm excited about it all!

    December 30, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. Melli in Los Angeles

    Hey all you little petty squabblers – Your Jr. High called. It wants its drama back.

    December 30, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Jeffrey in MI

    The bitter and racist comments on here are pretty disheartening. My, you republicans are an angry bunch!

    December 30, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. MC

    Man, a lot of y'all are a bunch of bitter, self-righteous jerkwads. Personally, I'm not even hunting up the festivities on TV; I did everything I needed to do before Election Day. Far as I'm concerned, the swearing-in of a new (figure) head of state should be a solemn occasion, not a social one, and, especially in hard times, shouldn't involve an expensive and inconvenient public display at all. But, well, I don't have to go picking fights with my fellow citizens to justify my point of view. You know what I can't wait for??? Severe depression and major societal collapse. When the grocery store isn't there anymore, or only the wealthiest 5% can afford a trip to Aldi, all y'all are going to be relearning how to cooperate with your neighbors– regardless of race, religion, politics, or sexual orientation.

    December 30, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. texas dem

    To: TCM

    You said: "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."

    Perhaps you're confused or are having some sort of flashback to December 1999 when the country was preparing for the first Bush, Jr. inauguration. I think, no I know, that George W. Bush IS the MOST incompent, and definetly self-centered individual to hold the Office. But, we can't blame the country for that one since HE DIDN'T WIN THE FIRST ELECTION.

    Get over the hatred and hard feelings and let's move forward!

    Obama/Biden '08/'12
    Yes we Did!

    December 30, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. TangoDancer

    I'd love to be there in DC on the 20th. Real leadership for the nation and this world begins once Obama becomes president. I love reading the hateful comments from the fringe element GOP supporters. These hateful comments constantly remind us that there is no option but to continue to counter and fight everything that is part of the GOP platform. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that their stomachs are churning with discomfort and anxiety about the next 8 years of Obama. Don't worry, in 2016 some people may begin to forgive the GOP for the horrific failures that this party has bestowed upon this great nation. Our republic with thrive and survive, but only once the GOP has been relegated to the absolute fringe of society.

    December 30, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Scandal

    It amazes me that most of you didn't care about the amount of money spent on Bush who cheated his way both times into the White House....but now that a African-American is elected want it to be "simple". This is HISTORY people! If I could be there I would!

    December 30, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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