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. gmax

    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?

    No one bought the White House, the best man won. Get over it. Jerk!

    December 30, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. David Goldman







    December 30, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. SoBelle

    Here's an appropriate cautionary tale –

    Nicholas II was crowned Tsar of Russia on May 13, 1896. Four days later, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Field. In the area of one town square, theaters, 150 buffets for distribution of gifts, and 20 pubs were built for the celebrations. Nearby the celebration square was a field that had a ravine and many gullies. On the evening of May 17, people who had heard rumours of rich coronation gifts from the tsar (the gifts which everybody was to receive were actually a bread roll, a piece of sausage, gingerbread, and a mug) began to gather in anticipation.

    At about 5 o'clock in the morning of the coronation day, several thousand people (some say as many as 500,000) were already gathered on the field. Suddenly a rumour spread among the people that there was not enough beer or presents for everybody. A police force of only 16 men failed to maintain civil order, and in a catastrophic crush and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death, and roughly 1,300 were otherwise injured.

    Just be careful out there, folks...a crowd that size is a scary thing.

    And hey, regardless of how you voted, all Americans should feel free to disagree with their constitutionally-elected President, but we should all offer our support and hope that he is brave, wise, and honorable in the coming years.

    December 30, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  4. Retired Army in San Antonio

    TexAnnie *-*-*-*-* -----– December 30th, 2008 11:02 am ET

    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.........


    No kidding!!!!!!

    They are expecting anywhere from 1.5 to 4 MILLION people to arrive in DC that day! Hey......there is only about 450K people who even live in the city!

    Picture this......almost a million people in the National Mall area.....where are the gonna eat, what are they gonna eat/drink, how are they gonna move around if more than walking didstance, and most importantly......where are they gonna relieve themselves?

    If I lived in DC or worked in DC, I'd just stay home on that day!!!!!

    I might just do that, anyway 🙂 !

    December 30, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. texas democrat

    I agree that the Mall will be a mess when the day is over, but this is history. Shouldn't we all be proud that our country is ecstatic over an inauguration? It's sad enough that most of us are nauseated over our current president and can't wait to see him leave D.C. Whether they closed or opened the Mall for the public, would NOT have stopped millions of people from flocking to DC to witness President Obama take office. If you don't want to go, stay home. I am! But those of you wishing for blizzards or complaining ab out port-o-potties are the reason Obama was elected – we need people who will stand up and do something for this country, not just sit with our heads in the sand and complain!

    December 30, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. bj, Texas

    I'd rather stay home and what greco roman wrestling.

    December 30, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |

    Only in the land of the free do people say such low and hateful things on the internet. Some of you think your being bad by adding your full name, like that's an invitation!!! FOCUS PEOPLE........way beyond the color. Count your blessing and focus on what is really happening in your neighborhood...REALITY is man is killing and destroying this world!!!! Get over it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 30, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  8. Mary Patricia A. Letcher

    Under these circumstances, it would be best to hold our Inauguration in a stadium. It is not too late to alter the plan.

    December 30, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  9. max

    Once again, all you haters should just go find yourself another drug of choice. Hatefulness is very addictive and all consumming. Being hateful leads to hating the interperson. I pray for good weather, a happier USA where people are trying to make things work for the good of all.

    December 30, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. puck

    Where is the "dire warning?" Geez, CNN, maybe we should start calling you the "National Enquirer." That's about how much journalistic integrity you have left.

    December 30, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. ECF

    This article is written in regards to inaguration day's potential disasters and traveling woes, not if you support the incoming President. If you feel so strongly about his incompetance you have an easy fix...move. This is not the traditional GOP nation of long ago, everything changes. And unless you plan on being a little more optimistic of your circumstances you will be unhappy for a lot longer. DEAL WITH IT!

    December 30, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  12. Rob Stumpf

    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.<<<

    ha ha ha!!! Yeah, you tell her she's nasty, and how? Of course, by being nasty yourself. How did Obama's crazy supporters treat Palin, McCain, and Bush? With the worst nastiness imaginable. But then, that's a liberal's stock in trade– non-stop hypocrisy. All the caring and wonderful people you mention unfortunately drank the Obama crazy Kool Aid....they have only themselves to blame whent the Empty Suit is in charge.

    There are only two parties. When things go wrong– as they inevitably will– the Republicans will be back, because there's no other choice. It's going to be sweet to see the liberals go down again. The best. Worth waiting a couple of years for.

    December 30, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  13. Eric

    "incompetent, corrupt, self-centered individual at the highest seat. It's all glitter and showboating"

    I totally don't get this statement when he is doing exactly what other presidents have done. Bush has done the same thing at his inauguration. The media is hyping things up. The innocent truth is that we, liberals, progressives, and indepences don't care what you thank. Bush destroy this economy with re-enforcement by the Republicans with political threats against the democrats.

    December 30, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  14. Chad

    TCM, you are right! We should have kept the inept conservative approach in Washington. Another 4 (or even 8) years would undoubtedly cripled this country....if the current administratiion hasn't already.

    I'm a life-long conservative, but I'm smart enough to give an intelligent person with a fresh approach to politics a chance to turn things around. You should have done the same......if for no other reason than to help get your country out of the mess its in!

    December 30, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Marc M ---- December 30th, 2008 11:34 am ET

    When i see a real birth certificate I'll consider this man my president.



    No one cares what you 'consider' at this point.

    I really expect ANYONE to go out of their way just to show you Obama's birth certificate? The very notion is laughable!!!!

    Picture this.......I'll consider you a citizen when I see YOUR birth certificate 😀 !

    Obama won the election, he's gonna be President, be an adult and get over it!!!!!

    December 30, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Elaine Hanna

    I am disappointed that OBAMA himself has not stepped in to stop the very foolish waste of vast funds alotted to this event. Surely he must realize that in this economic climate the entire event should be scaled way back in respect to the citizens of this country. A tasteful, unwasteful swearing in would really be a HISTORIC event!

    December 30, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. Don

    TCM, you are a very sad and miserable excuse for a human. I would wonder where you get your information, but i know it come from the dark recesses of your twisted mind

    December 30, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. Jody

    Porto Potties, no lawn chairs, no wheelchairs, no strollers, no backpacks, no camera cases, no thermos, no brains if you want to go to this mess just to see B.O. put his hand on Lincoln's Bible to
    swear himself to mess up this country as much as he can.....

    I am not even going to watch it on there.....hahaha....

    December 30, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. Rob Stumpf

    Now then, on to the "healing of the nation" part of what we dems and libs do best………

    Yeah, like during the Great Society/Vietnam era. Healing of the nation. Are you serious?

    December 30, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  20. Rich

    My office is directly across 17th Street from the Mayflower Hotel and like most other offices in downtown Washington, it will be closed on I-Day. My advice to those trying to get into town:

    1. Don't bring your kids if you can avoid it.
    2. Don't bring ANYTHING with you that you cannot carry in your pockets.
    3. Eat a large breakfast and visit the restroom prior to coming into town. Getting meals, drinks, or other amenities will be problematic at best.
    4. PLAN AN ALTERNATE ROUTE OF EGRESS. In other words, walk the extra distance to the metro centers that are further from the Mall to get out of town. Yes, the metro platforms are going to be really backed up and so are the trains, so if you can get into a train at a station that is not crowded, it will save you that much more time, and take some of the pressure out of the closer stations.
    5. Start watching the weather NOW if you are from out of town. Keep up to date on this as the weather in DC can and does change by the hour.
    6. Try to find a point of contact outside the district in case of an emergency. It is not an understatement to say that the districts resources are going to be stretched thin.
    7. Leave bad attitudes at home. There is enough of that here when nothing else is going on already.

    December 30, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  21. Bill

    I'm not normally the 'blame the media' type, but the tagline for this article on the main page of CNN read "Dire Warning from Inauguration Team" and then I see the article is just about heavy crowds at the inaugural. Are you KIDDING me? This is not 'dire' it's just common sense! CNN and the rest of the so-called 'news' media need to start being more responsible about the way in which they present their stories, rather than going for shock value all the time by painting everything as the end of the world. Be responsible for cryin' out loud!

    December 30, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  22. Jay

    Why not have the Inauguration during the halftime show of the Superbowl? Right on the 50 yard line. That would be awesome and a WHOLE LOT CHEAPER. Save us taxpayers some money...

    December 30, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  23. virginia for obama

    Obama deserve this just like all the 43 presidents before him. So don't try to make it like is a big deal now. I'm sure Mccain's party would be just as BIG AND EXPENSIVE and you know it. Stop Hating! and wishing for bad things to happen.

    December 30, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  24. Apples for sale

    Who was Mike Connell and why was he killed?

    December 30, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  25. Mabuka

    I'm not a Democrat or a Republican..(I did vote for Republicans since Reagan)...and this time I voted for Obama. This time I paid much closer attention to the arguments and answers and the Republicans don't have any. The GOP folks who still don't get it are the ones who don't have a clue. I agree with EW...if people can't walk a few miles...they should be out exercising instead of sitting on their butt watching TV.
    Its amazing we will actually have a president with some intelligence and morals...and the GOP hardcore don't like it.

    December 30, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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