Stage set for Biden to be sworn in as 46th US president

Written by on January 20, 2021

Thirty-four years after first seeking the job, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th US president Wednesday, drawing a curtain on the most tumultuous administration of modern times and charting a new course to tackle Covid-19 and unite a splintered nation.

Biden, a 78-year-old former vice president and longtime senator, will take the oath of office at noon (1700 GMT) on the US Capitol’s West front, the very spot where pro-Trump rioters clashed with police two weeks ago before storming Congress in a deadly insurrection.

While a transition of power will occur much as it has for more than two centuries, this inauguration is unlike any other.

Washington has taken on the dystopian look of an armed camp, protected by some 25,000 National Guard troops tasked with preventing a repeat of this month’s attack.

And with the pandemic raging, the general public is essentially barred from attending the swearing-in, leading to unprecedented optics: an empty National Mall on Inauguration Day.

With the death toll soaring past 400,000, Biden on Tuesday led a powerful tribute to victims of Covid-19 as he arrived in Washington.

Biden, who has suffered deep personal tragedy and is known for his public displays of emotion, has stressed the need to unite the country.

Inauguration eve is normally a time of massive crowds gathering in the capital, but Biden, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, was almost alone at the reflecting pool.

On the Mall’s grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags have been planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration.

Trump, who has not appeared in public for a week, broke days of silence with a pre-recorded farewell video address on Tuesday.

He asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming administration. Trump, whose efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and console its victims have been widely criticized, will not be attending the inauguration.


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