Much ado about something in Washington next week

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are again expected to walk along Pennsylvania Ave. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are again expected to walk along Pennsylvania Ave. Photo / AP

It's been a bit of a tease, but the details are dribbling in. In no special order of importance: the Hawaiian float will feature a giant papier-mache volcano (possibly fuming), Kelly Clarkson will attempt My Country Tis of Thee at the swearing-in, the cast of Glee will perform and Michelle will be wearing ...

Sorry. Some things about a presidential inauguration have to remain secret until the end. What we can say is that the festivities surrounding the reinstallation of Barack Obama in the White House next Tuesday promise to be the usual confabulation of pop, pomp, yuck and party.

Around 800,000 people are expected to hit Washington DC starting on Sunday, something like half the numbers who showed up in 2009 when Obama was being sworn in as America's first black President.

The organisers have strained to signal a degree of restraint in recognition of hard economic times, though don't take the austerity theme too seriously.

America needs to go large. Highlights of the official schedule include the swearing-in on the west steps of Congress followed by Obama's big speech. He and Michelle then lead the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and back to the White House (volcano in tow).

The climax on Tuesday comes when the first couple take to the dance floor at one of the official inaugural balls. There are only two this time (compared with 10 in 2009), one for military guests and veterans and the other, much larger one, for everyone else. Both will be held at the hardly intimate Washington Convention Centre downtown and about 40,000 guests will be allowed in.

Yet for those determined to jam in the fun (and the networking) this is but the tip of the iceberg. For three days, Washington is a bacchanal of parties, some stiffer than others, some broadly advertised and others more discreet. All this promises to be exhausting for the Washington A-listers for whom an inauguration is above all a chance to be seen. internet news maven Arianna Huffington, for instance, has six parties on Saturday night local time alone, starting with a tea and Champagne shindig at the residence of the British ambassador.

The rest of us must meanwhile scramble and scrape for invitations to such treats as the Google bash, a glam-packed brunch to be hosted by Tina Brown of the Daily Beast with Eva Longoria at the Caf Milano, or the Peace Ball with Mos Def and Moby at the Arena Stage. Then there are other assorted balls courtesy of individual states.

What most of us can't hope for are invitations to the candlelight dinner that the President and first lady will be hosting at the Kennedy Centre on Monday for the biggest donors to his re-election campaign, or, spiffiest of all, the ball set for Wednesday for White House staff.

As for Michelle Obama and the designers she will make famous next week, this time we'll simply have to wait.

- Independent

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