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. puck

    Marc, the entire birth certificate drama has already been debunked. Just look it up on I suppose you would know better than the government of Hawaii, though. Tool.

    December 30, 2008 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  2. DC Resident

    I live/work in DC area and on a normal day the traffic is horendous... For those planning on attending- be prepared to spend 6+ hours trying to get into the city. There is one way in and out for the Inauguration. The swearing in ceremony may very well come and go while you are still trying to get there!

    December 30, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. Shocked

    Wow, I can't believe the vitriolic nature of some of these posts. I didn't vote for Obama, but I NEVER got the idea the guy had a big ego. I think it's really uncool to put down the next president, whoever he is, no matter how someone voted. Even McCain, his opponent, called on all Americans to come together and support the new president. No wonder there is so much hatred talked about and expressed between the two parties if the posts here are representative of how people talk about the opposing party.

    I do think that we should spend less money on the Inauguration, not more, in these economic times, and I do think that it is only being honest to recommend that people expect long waits everywhere, difficulties, and a physically grueling day.

    I think it's only responsible to tell people that with the crowds it will be nigh on impossible to deal with accidents or help the disabled.

    I think it's good to tell people to think twice about bringing small kids to an event where the line for the bathroom might be an hour and there will be no strollers where tired kids can sack out.

    Washington D.C. was not designed to be easy to get in and out of, nor to get around in. It was designed to make it hard for an invading army to attack. Thus it is hard to get around in on any day. It's very crowded on any day. It's insane when they have the simply Cherry Blossom Festival. Now imagine the historic beginning of the presidency of our first president who is not totally white. A lot of people in America see this as a sign that we can change and be more inclusive and open-minded so they want to be part of the excitement.

    While I can understand this, I also would be hesitant to go to ceremony. I mean people who live there are vacating and renting their houses for thousands of dollars a night. There are no hotels for at least a 100 mile radius. Some people SHOULD stay home.

    But we know that people will do what they want without regard for others' feelings and without regard for their own safety and comfort, or the safety and comfort of their family members. There will be angry, frustrated parents, children having serious breakdowns (and probably having accidents), there will be shoving, anger and maybe fights in the public transport and on the streets, especially near food vendors and toilets. People will get hurt by the excited, tight-packed crowds, and by over-exerting themselves. There will be people who can not handle standing and walking and waiting for so long who will hurt themselves and probably will be so packed in with people that no one can get aid to them. Those people will probably sue somebody when they ought to be realistic about what they can handle.

    I just hope that by warning people to be honest with themselves and think about the logistics, that MAYBE some people will stay home who otherwise might have an unpleasant day or maybe even get hurt. But that's probably just wishful thinking.

    I really hope parents will think of their children's welfare and comfort and not drag them along. And I hope that people who can't walk several miles and climb steps and stand for long periods will stay at home and not risk injury.

    I mean let's be realistic. With that many people crowded in, it's going to be standing room only all over D.C. If someone collapses, has breathing troubles, hurts a foot, leg, or muscle, or otherwise needs the paramedics, they will NOT be able to get through.


    December 30, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. Mitty, Miami Gardens, Florida

    Well, it seems like an uphill battle, but my husband and I plan to be there; we are looking forward to this Historic Event .

    December 30, 2008 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Eileen

    What a truly sad, sad day for our country this will be. Obama is a joke and his followers are all fools. This country is unrecognizable. Welcome to the third world.

    December 30, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. bill thurston

    I do not plan on watching anything remotely involved with that man. I will be busy turning my flag that has been flying proudly for 30 years upside down where it will remain for the duration of this regime.

    December 30, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Michael

    From a DC Native... it's simple:
    – take a BUS to the END of your METRO Subway line
    – get off at OUTSIDE the city (National Airport, Clarendon, Dupont Circle, etc)
    – WALK in (Key Bridge, Memorial Bridge, etc)

    Michael Domingo
    Alexandria, VA

    December 30, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. Words*Matter

    I can't wait to swoon during his inauguration. I know the messiah will save us.

    December 30, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  9. Scorpio

    Mr. Obama has every right to be sworn in as President of the USA, just like the Presidents before him. What concerns me with this pending ceremony, is the amount of people excepted to witness, this historic event.

    Never,in the history of this process have we seen the potential of great personal risk,disapointment, danger, injuries. I would have expected more common sense from the Obama Team, perhaps to put a limit on spectators. Inviting 1-2 million people to the swearing in, is just not rational thinking.

    Let's all pray that no one gets hurt, making this historic event the ugliest event in history.

    December 30, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. obama-mama

    A GOP Faithful December 30th, 2008 11:04 am ET

    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.

    Just plain stupid...Grow up...

    December 30, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. Liam

    TCM, Why must republicans be so bitter? "Such an incompetent, corrupt, self-centered individual"? Where did you get that from? Why and how is he corrupt? Incompetent... Um, no... he's actually a very smart individual in case you didn't notice. Very even-keeled and bright. The reason for so much security is that, YES, this IS an historic moment in our country's history and there are a lot of bitter and racist people out there who can't see beyond the end of their noses.

    December 30, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Lance Coardill

    I will be there and I have a room. My good friend Rod Blugo got us a room for a price. All the pretzels and mixed nuts I can eat, free, from the mini-bar, compliments of Rham-bo Emanuel.

    What a joke

    December 30, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. Salt

    Rob sound like a maniac. Seek help.

    December 30, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. John Winslow

    This "party" should not even be taking place. It should be a formal ceremony attended only by the people in offices that are required to make it legal.
    No matter whether it's Barack Obama, or any one else, he's just asked for and received the most difficult job on the planet. He should be figuring out what to do, not worrying about who stands where at a party.

    December 30, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  15. obama-mama

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

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

    Remember Jimmy Carter, you asked for it all over again.

    High interest rates, insane unemployment and taxes like we have never seen before. Here they come.

    Doesn't matter what you consider he will still be your president, like it or not....

    Hight interest rate, insane unemployment and taxes like we have never seen before are happening now...

    Stay off the crack. Its clouding your thinking

    December 30, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  16. Lenegal

    I will be watching on TV here in FL.

    For the Right Wingers that diss Obama, GROW UP.

    If you were, you would be less concerned about slamming Obama and more concerned for the horrific train crash that GWB has left this country in.

    So keep on watching Hannity the manatee and idolizing Palin the moose stew queen.

    For us adults, this country is in a horrid mess economically, 2 ongoing wars for close to 6 years.....the list goes on and on.

    Bush, a president who will go down in history as the worst president ever.

    December 30, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. laura

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

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


    bet you were so ready to vote for Palin in a heartbeat .... right? No matter what you wanted Palin for VP and if you pray really really hard she might be your President because after all SHE can see Russia from her house jajaaaaa.

    Don't you think if this 'fake birth certificate' was real that EVERY Reporter and Rep. would be looking for it ....... hhmmm no my 'friend' you just plain don't like Obama.

    December 30, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. Barbara Moses

    Regardless of the warnings, no tickets to attend, cold weather, millions of people....I will be there amoungst all of God's beautiful people of different races, beliefs and ideas for this historic event. Everyone has an opinion, however Obama has shown how he can bring multitudes of diversity together and this my friends is an absolute MIRACLE. This actually THRILLS ME!

    December 30, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Desharon

    For anyone who thinks that the "experience" of being present for President Obama's Inauguration is not worth it, I have to say that there is more to this Inauguration that any brief ceremony.

    I flew from Houston, TX to Denver, CO for then Sen. Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field. There were tens of thousands of us there and the excitement was palpable. The camaraderie and relationships that we made will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Just being in Denver and meeting some of the locals and shop owners was very enjoyable as well.

    So, I will be in DC for this historic moment and plan to glean the same type of lifelong memories that will always be with me from making the journey to the convention in Denver.

    Can we all get to DC and enjoy this historic moment while making lifelong memories? YES WE CAN!!!!

    December 30, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Republican!

    OH LORDY! SAVE US FROM OURSELVES! Typical liberal bs... be careful-it might be icy, the escalators might be turned off, the subways will be packed, it might be cold, you'll have to walk at least 2 miles and stand for 6.

    Obama clearly wants to spend money-look at his influence in all of the bailouts, and this inauguration party. If he really wanted to change Washington he'd cut taxes and cut spending, and would sacrifice his own inauguration party by putting the millions it will cost (and the millions donated to his election campaign) back into the American economy!

    December 30, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. laura

    A GOP Faithful December 30th, 2008 11:04 am ET

    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.



    guess what ... HE will still be President jajaaaaa

    December 30, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. obama-mama

    William A. Schaedler from St. Louis December 30th, 2008 10:05 am ET

    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.
    I'm sure it wasn't gaudy when Bush-kill had his inaugural and the public was invited....Don't hate.

    December 30, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. Robin

    I think I'll go there, just so they can play me on video crying. Oh wait, I think lots of people will be doing that.

    December 30, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. Jeff in DC

    Can I see any reason why so many people are so proud of what they have done to this country by electing such an inexperienced person? Not At All! However, it's still Inauguration and it will be quite the spectacle just as it is every 4 years.
    That being said, stay away unless you are TRULY committed. DC can't even handle the 4th of July crowds. It usually takes 2+ hours just for me to get from my offce (directly next to the white house) across a bridge to VA...and that is only the 4th of July. This is going to prove to be a disaster that only FEMA could 'one-up'.

    December 30, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. KG

    "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."

    I'll bet if people were yelling "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" about Dick Clark, NYC would have these same problems.

    December 30, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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