Washington DC is a city holding its chilly breath. Both anticipation - and trepidation on the part of the authorities - for the inauguration early tomorrow (NZT) are coursing through its flag-adorned streets.
Yesterday, as cold whipped into every pore, an ever-swelling sea of humanity kept washing around DC's iconic monuments, including the frozen water of remembrance by the Capitol.
The day got off to a sleepy start, with most stores shut for Sunday local time and few signs of the much-mooted three or four million-strong Obama army.
But plane, bus and train loads of inauguration-goers later started pouring into the city. They leaned against the fence barring their way outside the Capitol, just to hear another run-through of the order of ceremonies - during which the President-elect was referred to as "Barack H. Obama".
They streamed, for what seemed endlessly, across the dry field from the great tall obelisk of the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial hours before a concert featuring Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Beyonce began.
They wandered grand Pennsylvania Avenue, where United States and District of Colombia flags hang from lampposts and temporary stands are in place for the parade that will follow Obama's swearing-in as 44th President.
Hotel fronts were already decked out in red, white and blue, but barriers were still in clumps waiting to be spaced out.
The man himself was inescapable.
There's a tank-load of irony in the fact that Obama is the biggest T-shirt shifter since Che Guevara. There are also Obama caps, ties, mugs, badges and even Obama earrings.
Worshippers at the Nineteenth St Baptist Church reportedly shrieked with delight when he turned up yesterday.
During videos before the concert, Obama was eulogised to a disconcerting degree - although he himself emphasised the shivering multitude before him: "The dream of our founders will live on in our time. What gives me hope is what I see when I look across this mall."
Springsteen performed his 9/11 affirmation song The Rising, which Obama adopted as a campaign theme. U2 played another campaign song, City of Blinding Lights. Bono said Obama's use of it had given "a thrill for four Irish boys".
Somehow, the celebration in the crowd - good natured, open and uncynical - felt like an Obama field day rather than anything that recognised the seriousness of his position and the situation he faces.
One woman serving at a hot-dog stand broke out into chants of "yes we can" for no reason at all. It was that sort of day.
Polls support the notion that the United States is deeply in love with Obama at present. A new CNN/Opinion Research poll showed that even 60 per cent of Republicans approve of him.
Stevie Wonder performed his searing old hit about black urban poverty, Higher Ground, with Usher and Shakira. If Obama needed to see evidence of how far the US has progressed - and also hasn't - on racial issues and the economic situation for African Americans it is all around here.
Alongside the many blacks of middle-class appearance and the mixed-race couples celebrating here are the African-American homeless and the mostly black street souvenir sellers. As the concert was about to get under way, police rounded up several black men.
News reports here suggest that tomorrow Obama will use his inaugural speech to call for greater responsibility and accountability. It seems that the chilly winds will not all be of the weather variety.
The Inauguration timetable:
(All times Greenwich Mean Time)
* 1pm (2am Wed NZT) Gates to the Inaugural Ceremony open, Obama attends a church service.
* 3.30pm (4.30am Wed NZT) Senator Dianne Feinstein provides call to order and welcome; Invocation by the Rev Rick Warren; Aretha Franklin performs.
* 4.30pm (5.30am Wed NZT)Vice president-elect Joe Biden sworn into office.
* 5pm (6am Wed NZT) Obama takes the Oath of Office using President Lincoln's Inaugural Bible.
* 5:05pm (6.05am Wed NZT)Obama gives address.
* Poem by Elizabeth Alexander.
* 6pm (7am Wed NZT) Obama escorts outgoing President George W Bush to a departure ceremony, then attends a luncheon in the Capitol.
* 7.30pm (8:30am Wed NZT) The 56th Inaugural Parade sets off down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.