Tue, January 20, 2009
World > Americas > Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th U.S. President

The inauguration by the numbers

2009-01-20 08:39:36 GMT2009-01-20 16:39:36 (Beijing Time)  Forbes

This weekend, America's capital city will welcome thousands of government officials and dignitaries from the U.S. and around the world. Over 10,000 buses will carry 500,000 riders into Washington, D.C., doubling the city's population. On Inauguration Day, the Metro is expected to have a 17-hour rush hour. District bars will be open 24-hours a day for five straight days.

To manage an event of this scale, the District of Columbia will spend a mammoth $47 million. It is not enough.

Obama's Inauguration is expected to be the largest inaugural event in American history--and the most challenging to orchestrate. A committee of local elected officials estimates that ensuring the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved in the festivities will cost over $75 million.

Security is one of the largest expenses. The Department of Homeland Security classifies presidential Inaugurations as "National Special Security Events," which means there is potential for terrorism or assassination attempts. In these cases, the Secret Service, with the help of local law enforcement, is put in charge of security.

The Inaugural Parade route alone requires 4,000 police officers and almost 100 other law enforcement agencies from around the country to help the Secret Service manage the masses.

Extra money will be spent not just to control crowds but also to transport them.

Transportation costs will set Washington, D.C., back about $5 million as visitors enter the capital by bus, train, plane and automobile. Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport expect to see a combined 300,000 passengers walk through their terminals. And with no parking on Capitol Hill, limited parking in Washington, D.C., and countless road closures, driving a car into the city will be dreadful.

The Inauguration may be a logistical nightmare, but that shouldn't prevent anyone from having a good time. The Presidential Inauguration Committee will spend about $45 million on entertainment expenses, including the 10 official Inaugural Balls and big screen TVs placed around the city to let the public witness events they can't reach.

Much of the $45 million will go toward creating a dynamic Inauguration experience for the everyday visitor, not just funding exclusive events. "We don't even consider these events to be extravagant," says Linda Douglas, a spokeswoman from the Presidential Inauguration Committee. "With crowds of this size, most of our attention is being devoted to opening up as many events to the public."

Six of the official balls, including the popular Neighborhood Ball and the Obama Home States Inaugural Ball, are being held at the Washington Convention Center in the heart of the capital.

If the Secret Service thinks they face challenges, they should compare notes with Convention Center caterers. Over 1,800 hours will be spent prepping food for the six balls. About 9,000 pounds of tortellini and 8,250 pounds of Italian chicken roulade will be eaten. Toasts will be made with over 10,000 bottles of wine opened by over 700 bartenders and wait staff.

It may be possible to put a price tag on security and festivities, but some things can't be bought--at least not by the general public.

One of those things is Obama's new, heavily armored 2009 Cadillac limo, which will debut at the Inaugural Parade. It may look like a regular limo, but it's hardly your average sedan. The presidential limos are created by a secret team of individuals from both Cadillac and the U.S. government. Understandably, the Secret Service won't share information about the protective elements of the president's car.

(Anna Vander Broek, Forbes.com)

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