Inauguration News Roundup: Wireless Capacity, Security, Boring Inaugural Balls
We're just about two weeks out from the big day, the holidays are over and President-elect Barack Obama has arrived in Washington. Expect a lot of inauguration-related news daily and check back here at Inauguration Watch frequently as the clock ticks down. Here's a roundup of inauguration news from the Post over the weekend and this morning to get you started:
Kim Hart brings word of cell phone companies trying to figure out how to ensure the wireless networks don't overload on inauguration day:
Wireless carriers are expecting an explosion of cellphone traffic on Jan. 20, when millions of visitors pour into Washington to welcome the new president. So many calls, text messages, photos and video clips hitting the airwaves at the same time can choke communication networks and result in delayed messages and dropped calls.
While carriers are erecting extra cell sites to boost capacity, two local companies are also trying to help traffic move along. Wireless operators are urging people to avoid making calls and instead send text messages because they take up less bandwidth.
Read Hart's full story online.
Federal and local authorities downgraded the estimated inaugural crowd from 4 million to 2 million a few weeks ago, but that doesn't mean there isn't need for a massive security operation--the largest ever for an inauguration, Mary Beth Sheridan reported Sunday.
The expected record throngs pose daunting challenges to police. The U.S. Park Police, for example, typically check the bags of the half-million or so people at the annual Fourth of July celebration on the Mall. But with potentially 2 million people wrapped in bulky coats and blankets pouring onto the Mall for Obama's swearing-in, stretching to the Lincoln Memorial, police decided that it would take too long to funnel them through checkpoints.
Instead, Park Police are relying on a massive security force, including 1,300 unarmed National Guard soldiers, to detect problems. It is the first time in recent history that Park Police have sought military help at an inauguration, according to Chief Sal Lauro.
Think inaugural balls are going to be fun? Maybe it's time to think again, according to Monica Hesse, who had this to say about Bill Clinton's 1997 official balls:
At the 1997 inaugural balls of William Jefferson Clinton, guests at certain venues could purchase a plastic box containing a ham and Swiss mini-biscuit for $5.50 and, for an extra $4, a glass of wine dispensed from an 18-liter box. Naturally, that wasn't true of every venue. Some places went the peanuts 'n' frozen cookies route. At the Tennessee ball in Union Station, one resourceful guest brought along her own box of Cheez-Its.
Sadly, sometime in American history, the inaugural ball became, to put it bluntly, hideous.
"Oh, there will be something big hanging from the ceiling and something big hanging from the end of the room, but it won't be beautiful. It will be gaudy," says Letitia Baldrige about the ball experience. Baldrige was Jackie Kennedy's social secretary and has seen the worsening of inaugural balls through several presidential terms. "The music will be great, but you won't be able to hear it over the people asking why they paid so much money for this and why there aren't more bathrooms."
Also over the weekend: Metro closes parking lots at four stations; the Prince George's County ball will tie into Africa; and D.C. students can win a front-row seat to the inaugural parade in an essay contest.
David A Nakamura
January 5, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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