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DC countdown

Rome Hartman | 10:35 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A sure sign that we're getting close is the equipment. The hallways of the BBC's Washington News bureau are lined with open shipping cases, coiled wires and bits of electronic gear sticking out, as an extremely small but skilled team of engineers again transforms this newsgathering office into a production centre.

BBC World News America logoWhat is normally a small conference room is becoming a technical control room. The studio from which our World News America programme is broadcast is now being re-fitted to accommodate everything from Hardtalk to Newsnight as well.

And everyone from Huw Edwards and Matt Frei to camera and sound people are digging through their closets trying to find their warmest clothes, because they'll be spending many hours braving the elements on camera platforms and along parade routes. Dress in layers, folks.

The inauguration of an American president is a carefully scripted event, planned down to the minute. The US Constitution requires that Barack Obama be sworn in at precisely noon on 20 January, and so he shall be, like 43 others before him.

Barack ObamaBut there are several ways in which this time will be different from all the rest. The most obvious, of course, is that no one who looks like Barack Obama - and no one with anything like his story - has ever taken the oath.

And many believe that when it's over, more people will have witnessed this inauguration in person than any previous presidential swearing-in. Three million? Five million? Who knows? There will never be a precise count.

Extraordinary measures are being taken to accommodate - and control - the enormous crowds. Most of the bridges into DC will be closed to vehicles. The BBC bureau is located within the "no drive" zone...most of us will be walking here from wherever we live.

I know for sure that most spare bedrooms in most DC area homes are already spoken for. Ours certainly is; the daughter of a good friend asked weeks ago if she and one of her college chums could sleep in our guest room. Of course! That sort of thing is happening all over town.

It will be an exciting day. I just hope I can get to work!

Rome Hartman is executive producer of BBC World News America.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    I trust before everyone starts banging on about "the liberal BBC's Obama bias", they'll take note of the similar infatuation from other (not left-wing) channels, from CNN and Fox to Sky and ITV. The point not being that these aren't licence-fee funded - but rather that these same critics aren't attributing the Obamania of these other channels to the channels' intrinsic political stance or agenda.

    The majority of the bias with Obama coverage was because people generally found him an exciting and different candidate - and that in itself made him newsworthy. Any political or ideological bias that a news broadcaster shows will pale in comparison to the bias shown to something or someone who is already genuinely newsworthy.

    Before I get dismissed as a BBC apologist, I will just finish on my own gripe - why the need to fly Huw Edwards out there? Now don't get me wrong - I've no doubt Huw is as accomplished as anyone - but does his being there really add anything that couldn't be obtained by him remaining back here? Isn't this more about appearance than substance?

  • Comment number 4.

    'Huw Edward' ? Who he ?

  • Comment number 5.

    All incredible hype. I just hope when people come to their senses they realise that Barack Obama doesnt have a magic wand and things will go on much as they are.

  • Comment number 6.

    "The US Constitution requires that Barack Obama be sworn in at precisely noon on 20 January, and so he shall be, like 43 others before him."



    Permit me to be pedantic for a moment ..... but until 1937 the inauguration was on March 4 (and Washington was inaugurated April 30) , so it will not be like 43 others before him.

    The 20th ammendment brought the date forward to January 20, as it was considered that 4 months from the electin to handover was way too long.

    (my opinion - even 20 Jan is too late .... lose the election and out you go....)





  • Comment number 7.

    I'm always unmoved by hype and your blog, Mr Hartman, never fails to produce a big yawn. It is a Presidential inauguration and it is a regular event. Even Mickey Mouse may attract your attention to a less than coherent acceptance speech. It must be such an exciting time for you - 500,000 more unemployed; the financial system in a mess; carnage in Gaza; problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran threatening - but you have a chance to wear your best suit and believe whatever it is you want to believe. So much for a sense of balance.

    I am pretty sure, despite all the silly talk around him, that Mr Obama needs to keep his feet well and truly on the ground - not even a fancy dance for his audience - because boy do those people prepared to "idolize" him now need to know just how serious the next four years are going to be.

    Of course those four years should help to demonstrate whether Mr Obama is the genuine article or not, except of course, that he is already on a hiding to nothing. I always worry about people who fall in love at first sight - what begins quickly almost always ends just as quickly. I hope Obama is wiser than his years and his inexperience and will not get carried away by the fanciful thinking of his adoring menagerie. But he starts with a desperately difficult mess from his predecessor and I cannot help but believe the Republicans saw him coming. It is just such a big shame that if he is the genuine article he may not have enough time to demonstrate it. He has my best wishes for all the good they may do.

  • Comment number 8.

    I've got agree with one thing: Huw Edwards is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    He successfully ruined the Beijing Olympics and now you are sending him to Washington to ruin another occasion. What's so wrong with Matt Frei that he can't handle hosting this global event?

  • Comment number 9.

    To agree with #3.
    The US media is now in a frenzy about the inauguration, entire pages are now devoted to speculation as to what dress Michelle Obama (now nicknamed MO) will wear!

    Significantly, 2009 is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Obama's inauguration has been titled 'A New Birth of Freedom', using a phrase Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address. (Bizarrely inauguration’s are themed, the title G.W. Bush's 2005 one was 'A Vision of America'.)
    Lincoln had the first inaugural parade to include blacks in 1865 and led the northern states in the civil war that ended slavery. Like Obama, Lincoln was tall, a noted orator and represented Illinois. Lincoln is now mythologized in American history; expect parallels to be made at every opportunity (but no mention of John Wilkes Booth).

    So expect spectacle, historic parallels, moments of heavy significance, shots of teary eyed Americans renewing their faith in the Stars and Stripes, shots of teary eyed Americans hoping for a better future, historic speeches and the Obama children receiving their long promised pet pooch.
    No wonder the Disney channel is doing a childrens’ special on this inauguration.

    And BBC please, please, please don’t let Huw Edwards commentate; he ruined the Olympic opening ceremony for me.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Rome:

    Name correction: Huw Edwards (not Edward)....I would like to bring that to your attention!

    Also, I wish the BBC an wonderful day (days) getting prepared for the Countdown!!!!

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 12.

    A good few BBC reporters, cameramen, sound men, directors, producers etc. are going to get a good holiday in America over this so don't knock it, makes you wonder how in the hell we knew what was going on in the world when the BBC only had one person covering whole continents, still when you are spending other peoples money what the heck.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

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  • Comment number 15.

    I think this US election cartoon covering the international media frenzy over the last year says it all!

    Still there is no taking away from the fact that 20th Jan 2009 is a momentous occasion, not just for America.

  • Comment number 16.

    Rome:

    [Taken from your remarks: It will be an exciting day. I just hope I can get to work!]

    I hope and I know that you will be able to get to work on Tuesday....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 17.

    Rome:

    [And many believe that when it's over, more people will have witnessed this inauguration in person than any previous presidential swearing-in. Three million? Five million? Who knows? There will never be a precise count.]

    I wish, there could be a precise count of people at the inauguration event on Tuesday...But, as you have written; There will never be a full accounting of attended....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 18.

    You hope you can get to work?

    Most of us who have to work here all the time have pretty much given up on any chance of getting to work monday to wednesday because there's going to be hordes of clueless idiots swarming all over the place being as rude and inconsiderate as possible.

    It was bad enough with the Pope, but this? This is going to be hell.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    You have Justin Webb & Matt Frei there. What on earth is Huw being sent out for? He was useless on the 10 tonight.

  • Comment number 21.

    Once again, the BBC's coverage of the ceremony was spoiled by the incessant need to have its commentators jabber away over everything. It's like you feel that your commentary is more important than the event itself. When will you learn that people have switched on first and foremost to watch a ceremony, not to listen to your talking heads wittering - even over the music and early speeches. Neither do we need a nice scenic shot marred by the BBC feeling it needs to fill the silence with commentary.

    I'm typically no fan of Sky News, but once again they had the sense (and respect) to show restraint and let the images speak for themselves - and their coverage was all the better for it. It felt like we were getting more of the actual ceremony from them instead of 75% ceremony-25% BBC bods.

  • Comment number 22.

    dotconnect - not quite so harshly but I have to agree with you on this point. The excessive commentary certainly took away from the actual ceremony for me. Overall though I have to say I appreciated the BBC coverage of the US elections.

    Rome, think you'd enjoy the Obama inauguration cartoon published on the Wonkie blog - I wonder if the inauguration will mark the end of the Obamamania frenzy the media seem to have gone beserk with the world over.

  • Comment number 23.

    The reporting has been great - I hope to read the coverage validating all the hype around Mr Obama's appointment and the positive impact he's going to have on the world.. all the best to him and I certainly hope he makes a difference!

  • Comment number 24.

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  • Comment number 25.

    what an utter waste of money.

    Why can people not see the Tony Blair in all this?

 

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