Tom Sutcliffe: It's not that easy to talk when your lips are blue and barely moving

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"Well – it's not often that we can say that we are witnesses to the making of history," said Huw Edwards, introducing BBC 1's live coverage of the inauguration speech. And don't think for a moment – he might easily have added – that we aren't going to make the most of it.

"Expectations are at unprecedented levels," he continued, "as President Obama prepares to replace – let's face it – the most unpopular incumbent in recent history". And don't look to us – he might also have added – to do anything to dampen that expectation down.

If there was a word that competed with "historical" for most overused adjective in the hour leading up to Obama's oath-taking, it was "extraordinary" – used by nearly all of the BBC's reporting team.

Adam Brookes was on the upper slopes of the Capitol, while Jon Sopel and Clive Myrie staked out different sections of the Mall – vigilant for photogenically-tearful faces.

"Matt Frei," said Huw, turning to his panel, "your perspective on what is likely to happen in the next hour?" The true answer was a lot of very cold people would have to produce large quantities of hot air to fill the gap.

The VIPs filtered through the Capitol – President Bush Snr, Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary (not exactly looking as if they'd been swept up in the near universal exhilaration). Then for a surreal moment, we switched to the Bernie Grant Community Centre in Tottenham so a reporter could interview Baroness Young about Obama's impact on diversity programmes.

Then back to Washington. "There's certainly at least one growth area in this economy, which is the sellers of Obama memorabilia", said Jon Sopel, not a bad line, but one which didn't take account of how difficult the last two words are to say when your lips are blue.

Then a wary George Bush Jnr appeared , and Dick Cheney was wheeled past as if he thought it was a costume affair and had come as Dr Strangelove. Finally, it was Obama's turn – walking the corridors of power alone, his face a little strained and unsmiling, but his gait still that odd, easy, saunter.

Aretha Franklin sang "My Country, 'Tis Of Thee" in a way that got more and more gospel as it went on. To hear that sound letting rip – at the inauguration of a man whose father would have been turned away from restaurants only a few decades ago – was a genuine bit of soul. But given the tasks he faced, it really should have been "Say a Little Prayer".

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