Inaugural planning 101: lots of toilets and really big flags

Photo gallery: Planners of the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States have left nothing to chance

by Patricia Treble

Walking around the tourist, and government, parts of Washington is increasingly difficult these days. Roads are suddenly blocked off and incredibly tall sturdy security fencing is being erected everywhere President Barack Obama is going to be passing. When planning a huge event like the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States, nothing is left to chance. So four days before the big day, there are already hundreds of portable toilets lined up in perfect rows, waiting for their own big day in the sun.

And it isn’t just U.S. government buildings that are displaying inaugural fervour. Witness the prominent front columns of the Canadian Embassy, wrapped in slogans, “Friends,” “Neighbours,” “Friends” and “Allies.” Though it seems a bit too showy to be Canadian, there’s a partial reprieve for spelling “Neighbour” the proper way–with a “u.” Diplomats are taking advantage of its amazing vantage point overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue, where the parade with occur, by holding a “tailgate” party complete with a BeaverTail wagon and Tim Hortons.

Signs like this are everywhere near the Capitol. Officials are trying to force a bit of logic into a suddenly very confusing city for those lucky to have tickets on Inauguration Day. Nothing is going to be easy in figuring out how to get from point A to colour-coded point B, where you’ve been told to report, hours before big event, to see the inauguration, the parade or attend a ball. Don’t even think of just “cutting through” an area. This is an endurance test that will necessitate really, really comfortable footwear and the old-fashioned ability to read a map.

Below is the standard invitation, given out to all and sundry, including the media, along with fancy gold-braid accented official program. Kinda cool, though I’m still looking for an Obama mug.

Back to the Canadian Embassy for another banner hanging on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the building, a.k.a. the parade route. Note the rather minimalistic use of  French. And the Keystone XL pipeline protest.

Because security has pushed back visitors to squinting distance, it’s hard to tell that the five flags falling from the Capitol are different historical ones, including the Betsy Ross 13-star version and even the 21-star one dating back to 1818. On Monday this area will be full of spectators–those are the “non ticketed Mall” folk coded brown in the previous colour chart.

While Washington appears largely ready, everyone is keeping a close eye on the weather. With windchill, it was around freezing today, and is expected to be no better on Monday, Inauguration Day. Yup,  an Arctic cold front that certainly didn’t pass the Secret Service background check is going to crash the festivities.




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Inaugural planning 101: lots of toilets and really big flags

  1. Thanks for the article behind the scenes.The row of outdoor toilets brings the whole event down to earth.

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