You shall go to Barack Obama's inaugural ball - all 34,499 of you

The queues for the plastic champagne flutes might have rivalled those at Terminal 5 last weekend

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The Independent US

I think I saw faux Greek columns in the VIP section of Monday night’s inaugural ball at the Washington Convention Centre, though the two ladies standing sentinel said I had the wrong coloured badge to get in, so I can’t be sure. Obama fans like Greek columns – very Denver nomination acceptance speech 2008.

But wait, we are all VIPs tonight. How many people can say they were there when the President took his First Lady on a fairy-tale spin while Jennifer Hudson sang Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, that they saw that red Jason Wu dress and caught first-hand tribute performances by Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keyes, John Legend and fun?

Well, alright, we aren’t that special and the label “exclusive” should never be used in the context of a Washington inaugural ball. That implies things like luxury, five-star service and close contact to the President. It doesn’t speak of food tables laden with bowls of mini-pretzels and Cheez-It crackers (nothing else, I promise you) or of plastic champagne flutes and queues to buy them that might have rivalled those at Terminal 5 last weekend.

If I had paid a lot of money – corporations that gave $1m to the inaugural fund got two tickets to this affair – or had sweated blood on the campaign trail, I might not have expected to find myself in a basement exhibition hall with 34,499 other guests navigating between souvenir tables – 20 bucks for a wooden presidential limo – or realising I needed a periscope to see what was happening on the stage.

Yet it was fun watching Piers Morgan trying to keep CNN’s coverage on the tracks as hundreds swarmed beneath him to gawk (not at him but at his guest and when Ms Hudson sang all the indignities melted away. The longest queues were for the chance to stand in front of billboards with the presidential seal and Inauguration 2013 in bold letters. Everyone wanted pictures just in case there was any doubt: they were there (for better or worse).