Star attractionBarack and Michelle Obama will have to attend all 10 official balls, and politicians and celebrities are competing to be seen with the President-Elect in the run-up to his inauguration
Gordon Brown is angling for a meeting with the incoming president. Diplomats in Washington are racing to get to know their counterparts in the new administration. But the real proof of how hard the British are trying to get in with Barack Obama will come next Saturday when the ambassador, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, holds one of the most star-studded parties of inauguration week. Later, offers of troops for Afghanistan will determine the strength of the special relationship, but for the next 10 days it is all about throwing the best party.
This weekend, Washington DC is converting itself into both a coach park for upwards of 2.5 million incoming revellers, and the biggest party venue in the world. Celebrities are vying for tickets and performing roles at the 10 inauguration balls, and residents – myself included – are hearing from long-forgotten friends as there is no hotel room to be had within 50 miles of Capitol Hill, where Barack Obama will be sworn in as America’s 44th president a week on Tuesday.
Donna Brazile, the black Democrat strategist who ran Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, says: "Is it just me or has everyone living within 120 miles heard from his or her fifth cousin? Lord knows I have. I even had someone who shares my last name contact me, wondering if we were kin." She has stocked up on air beds and will turn her apartment into a giant dormitory for relatives from Louisiana.
It is a measure of the hysteria that the inauguration is regarded as a hotter ticket than tonight’s Golden Globes ceremony in Hollywood. Stylists report that those with an invite to both are more interested in what they will wear to the inauguration.
The names of those performing at Washington’s star-studded events have yet to be announced, but Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel – all big Obama fans – are rumoured to be playing at the opening concert. Beyoncé has also made it clear she is available.
There are more than 100 unofficial balls and parties, where headliners will include rapper Jay-Z, Elvis Costello, Sting and hip-hop singer Rihanna.
Publicist Michael Levine says the celebrity relationship with Mr Obama is different from anything he has ever seen. "Clinton basked in the glow of celebrities," he told the Washington Post. "Now celebrities bask in the glow of Obama."
The British Ambassador’s bash, where several Cabinet-level appointees and senior Obama aides are expected, has competition on the diplomatic circuit only from the party to be held a day later by Reema Al-Sabah, wife of the Kuwaiti Ambassador and social queen of the Washington diplomatic corps.
Washington is a die-hard Democrat town – nine out of 10 voters backed Obama – and, save for the cabal of government employees, predominantly black. It is this combination that promises to make this party the biggest in four decades. Ticket touts found buyers willing to pay upwards of $2,000 for one of the 240,000 seats. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia received 26,000 requests for a ticket. His allocation was just 200.
Ulysses "Mac" McLaughlin, a 70-year-old who worked as a polling station helper on election day and saw elderly black men vote for the first time, predicts another huge turnout of black voters. "We’re going to take back the streets," he says.
Everywhere you look, people are selling Obama merchandise. Analysts say his victory has pumped hundreds of millions into the US economy. More than 700,000 copies of a plate bearing Obama’s image have already been sold and the shopping channel QVC, which has sold all 100,000 copies of a commemorative coin, is relocating to Washington for the week.
The most coveted item on news-stands will be the special edition of Marvel’s Spider-Man comic, which features Mr Obama (a fan of the superhero) on the cover and a storyline in which he is saved from an inauguration day attack.
The superhero theme has been seen as a reflection of the high expectations Mr. Obama has created, and the difficulty he will face in living up to his promises when the partying stops.
The Daily Telegraph