“It was a monumental event when President Obama was initially elected, and it was a turning point in a number of ways in the national political arena. This year, it wasn’t quite as dramatic or climactic as it was the first time,” Anderson said.
Four years ago, inauguration planners initially braced for as many as 4 million people. An estimated 1.8 million people attended, making it the largest event ever in Washington.
Elliott Ferguson, president of Destination DC, a nonprofit group that promotes District tourism, said his organization is working on an estimate of 800,000 visitors this time, which is still higher than attendance generally expected for second inaugurals. President George W. Bush’s drew about 400,000 people in 2005.
Last time around, the cost was difficult to pin down because of the many groups involved. Government officials and media organizations estimated that Obama’s first inauguration’s total cost was about $150 million, including $54.3 million in private money raised by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a principal organizer of events before and after the oath-taking ceremony.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has not yet come up with an estimated cost for this year’s festivities.
The Constitution doesn’t have much to say about inaugural events, prescribing only such basics as the time and date and the wording of the oath. Everything else has evolved through tradition. And like all rituals, the quadrennial exercise creates tensions between the need to adhere to tradition and the desire to acknowledge cultural or political change.
Every gesture has the potential to create meaning — sometimes by adding something, sometimes by omission — in a ceremony whose overarching purpose is to display a peaceful transition of power, or its peaceful renewal, in a democracy.
“I think what an inauguration does is it gives you constancy, and you get some comfort in it. The idea of beginning anew is a very powerful idea, even if it’s a second term,” said Mark R. Kennedy, a former member of Congress who heads the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. “They all, perhaps, have twists.”
Obama’s inauguration festivities will begin, as four years ago, with a National Day of Service on Saturday, Jan. 19, whose centerpiece will be a tented service fair on the Mall. Visitors will be encouraged to sign up and pledge a year’s effort to one or more of about 100 local and national community organizations.
On Sunday, the president will take the oath in a private ceremony; on Monday, he will repeat it in public. Roberts will give the oath to the president both times. Vice President Biden will receive the oath from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic appointed to the high court.
This will be the fifth time that a president takes the oath in private and repeats the process in public because of a quirk in the calendar, said Beth Hahn, historical editor in the U.S. Senate Historical Office. Four presidents — Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson and Rutherford B. Hayes — took the oath in private and then again in public because the constitutionally mandated date for the oath fell on a Sunday, a tradition grounded in the desire to honor Sunday as the sabbath.
After the oath-taking ceremony Monday, the president will attend a congressional luncheon and then lead the parade from the Capitol to the White House.
The Obamas will then attend the Inaugural Ball and the Commander-in-Chief’s Ball, both of which will be held at the Washington Convention Center.
The next day, Washington National Cathedral will host an invitation-only interfaith National Prayer Service, with the president and the vice president. There will also be a live webcast of the event.
On Monday, Metrorail will open an hour early, at 4 a.m., and service will be provided for an extra two hours, until 2 a.m. Tuesday. To help offset the costs of expanded service, Metro will charge peak fares until 9 p.m. Metrobus will operate weekday rush-hour service in the morning, followed by an early afternoon rush. Many routes will have detours related to inaugural events. There are also plans to accommodate an expected 2,500 motorcoaches and tour buses.
Lori Aratani, Mark Berman, Dana Hedgpeth and Luz Lazo contributed to this report.