Obama takes centre stage in a spectacle befitting the occasion

August 29th, 2008 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Denver, Aug 29 (IANS) The finale of the Democratic National Convention where Barack Obama accepted his historic nomination as the first Black American to lead a major political party into the presidential battle turned out to be a spectacle befitting the occasion.More than 75,000 Democrats filled Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High Thursday, navigating road closures, standing in line for as long as two hours, and waiting under a hot afternoon sun to hear Obama’s acceptance speech, media reports said.

State senators leaned toward the stage to take pictures. Families in the upper deck strained to see through binoculars. Concession stands sold T-shirts inscribed with the message “I Was There to Witness History”.

The Obama team worked to maximise their candidate’s visual impact. He entered a blue-carpeted stage decorated with Greek-style columns and 24 American flags. He walked down a runway and stopped at a lectern on an island. In a stadium filled nearly to capacity, he basked alone under 450 spotlights. Nobody stood within 15 yards of him.

The set up made Obama look like the star of a rock concert and the crowd responded accordingly. At various times, the entire stadium chanted, danced and shook miniature American flags in unison.

A series of megastars rotated onto the stage - musicians John Legend and Sheryl Crow, singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, former vice president Al Gore - and hundreds of cameras flashed each time.

The Denver Broncos have sold out this stadium for every football game in its history, but Obama’s appearance offered better atmospherics than any of them, the Washington Post cited officials as saying.

To make sure Obama never became just another in a long list of celebrity performers, his campaign continuously rolled video clips from his previous speeches on the stadium scoreboard.

Obama’s campaign moved the convention away from the 17,000-seat Pepsi Centre because it wanted this event to be “for the public”, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said.

More than 2,000 delegates sat in lawn chairs on the stadium floor, and the bleachers filled with supporters from all 50 states - including more than 30,000 from Colorado.

It was the biggest crowd for either party’s national convention since 1960, when John F. Kennedy moved the event outside in Los Angeles to accept the Democratic nomination in front of 80,000 supporters.

Denver closed its primary highway for the event and nobody was allowed to park in the Invesco Field lots for security reasons. The light rail, the city’s public transportation system, temporarily shut down while a bomb squad investigated a suspicious package found inside a duffel bag.

The lucky few who entered the stadium without problems arrived before 9 a.m. and waited outside for about four hours before security officials began the screening process.

After proceeding through an electronic scanner, attendees walked into an empty Invesco Field and chose their seats. A high school marching band entertained them with drum rolls and chants of “Obama”. Cheerleaders posed for pictures on the stadium concourses.

The rest of the crowd - those who decided to come downtown, say, only eight hours before Obama’s speech - arrived to find widespread disorder. By 3 p.m., a line outside the stadium snaked around a security fence, curved around walkways and through parking lots.

Some of the 15,000 accredited media members had trouble finding their designated entrance. Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, a presidential candidate himself early this year, waited in line with everybody else.

Most people in line kept waiting, undeterred. They crawled past volunteers handing out water and dozens of roadside vendors selling Obama souvenirs. T-shirts, playing cards, shot glasses, umbrellas - all transformed into commemorative items with the addition of the Obama imprint.

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