Washington gears up for Obama’s date with destiny

January 13th, 2009 - 12:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 13 (IANS) With Barack Obama set to make history as the first black president of America, Washington DC is agog with preparations that involve more than 13,000 participants in 90 military, musical, cultural and community groups from all over the US who will participate in the inaugural parade Jan 20.To ensure that things go like clockwork on Obama’s date with destiny, planners held a full-scale dress rehearsal here for the festivities complete with a mock inaugural address by an Obama’s stand-in on a cold and damp Sunday morning.

There were proxies wearing big name signs around their necks for incoming First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Malia and Shasha and Biden too

With the inauguration or swearing in of Obama and vice-president elect Joe Biden expected to draw a staggering two million people, authorities plan to prohibit cars from travelling on seven bridges linking neighbouring Virginia with the capital.

In addition, about 250,000 people will get tickets for vantage positions for the swearing in ceremony and the 56th Inaugural Parade from the Capitol where Obama will take oath at noon shortly after Biden is sworn is as his deputy to the White House.

The Presidential Inauguration Committee said the celebrations will be kicked off next Sunday with a massive line-up of musical all-stars performing a free show in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

As a part of unprecedented security preparations, the National Mall, where many of the spectators will be gathered, will be fenced off and people getting in would be checked for prohibited items that range from knives to backpacks to umbrellas.

Boats would not sail on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers that lead to the inauguration sites. Authorities are encouraging people to leave their cars at home, take the Metro or one healthier option, walk or bicycle into the nation’s capital.

President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural committee has pledged to make his Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony the most “accessible” in US history. But growing security concerns and staggering crowd estimates may be dissuading would-be witnesses from making the trip to Washington to be part of the historic event.

Obama’s inaugural crowd estimates are indeed extraordinary. Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 inauguration drew a record crowd of 1.2 million. Four years earlier, John F. Kennedy’s inauguration-blanketed in snow-attracted approximately 1 million.

The difficulty in finding a hotel room and the expense of paying for one if you do has also raised concerns among travellers. Some Washington area residents are hoping to cash in on the hotel frenzy by advertising their apartments for rent on Craigslist.

Talley, a 29-year-old musician who lives approximately seven blocks from the White House, is asking $3,000 for four nights - an offer he described to Fox News as “pretty cheap.”

Dulles International Airport said Monday it will temporarily close its newest $356 million runway from January 16 to 23 to provide parking for some 500 private aircraft expected during the big event.

Shortly after Obama becomes president a couple of minutes after noon Jan 20, a helicopter will take off from the other side of the Capitol with George W. Bush on board on way to his ranch in Texas that will be his new home after eight years in the White House.

But the defence forces are already hailing the new chief. Whatever decisions President-elect Barack Obama makes regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is prepared to carry them out, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday night

“When President-elect Obama gets in and says, ‘Here’s the decision,’ the United States military, led by me, is going to march off and execute that decision,” Admiral Mike Mullen told on the CBS TV show “60 Minutes.”

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