Officials say 1 million to 2 million visitors expected for inauguration

By Kasie Hunt

January 16, 2009

Between 1 million and 2 million people are expected to flood the city for President-elect Obama's inauguration Tuesday, less than half the original estimated number, organizers said Friday. That figure is based partly on a lower-than-expected number of requests for tour bus permits.

The city initially thought more than 10,000 tour buses would ask for space, but officials have fewer than half that number of requests.

The announcement came at a news conference hosted by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is in charge of organizing inaugural events at the Capitol. She said her committee is spending $1.2 million on the swearing-in ceremony and the inaugural luncheon held immediately afterward.

The Architect of the Capitol has a $3.5 million budget for the infrastructure, including the platform, chairs and other structures.

Feinstein said her office received more than 60,000 requests for tickets to the swearing-in ceremony; each Senate office received only 300. Each House member received just 200.

Some tickets were reserved for special requests, officials said, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., received an additional 600 to help her meet requests from district residents. Feinstein said anyone receiving tickets from her office will have to sign a pledge not to sell them. Earlier this week, the Senate passed a bill prohibiting the sale and counterfeiting of inaugural tickets.

The ceremony is planned to the minute. Feinstein has exactly four minutes for her opening remarks and one minute to introduce evangelical minister Rick Warren, who will give the invocation. Warren's selection sparked an outcry by gay-rights organizations. "All my introductions are very formal," Feinstein said of introducing Warren. "I respect the president's choice." If Obama sticks to the schedule, his inaugural address will be exactly 20 minutes long, and he will leave the platform at 12:31 p.m.

Concerns about cold weather have officials preparing a plan to move the ceremony to the Capitol's Statuary Hall, the original House chamber inside the Capitol. In 1985, then-President Ronald Reagan made the call to be sworn in inside due to the cold.

Feinstein said Obama would be reluctant to move the ceremony indoors, in part because the assembled crowd would be shut out. "The president-elect really expects it to be outside," Feinstein said.

After the ceremony, the customary inaugural luncheon will be held in Statuary Hall. Feinstein said organizing the lunch is difficult because of limited space, adding that the guest list was determined by "pure protocol" and historical precedent. The exception, she said, was the invitation for D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who wanted to attend even though the city's mayor had never been invited before.

By Kasie Hunt

January 16, 2009