Washington hopes to cash in on Obama-mania

Fri Nov 14, 2008 2:12pm EST
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By Ross Colvin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - How much would you pay for a front row seat to history?

Tickets for the swearing-in ceremony of Barack Obama, who will become the United States' first black president on January 20, are already being advertised for thousands of dollars.

There's just one small problem: the tickets are not publicly available, at least not yet. They will be released to the public only in the week before the ceremony, says the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

The committee is outraged that the tickets are being advertised for sale on online auction site eBay and other websites since they are meant to be free. One senator is even drawing up legislation to outlaw their sale.

EBay spokeswoman Nichola Sharpe said eBay officials met members of the committee on Wednesday and agreed to withdraw all ads for inauguration ceremony tickets.

EBay is currently advertising two tickets with a starting bid of $10,000, while online ticket brokers stubhub.com, a unit of eBay, and stagefront.com are advertising tickets between $1,400 and $2,350.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to converge on Washington to watch Obama take the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and address the nation after one of the longest and hardest-fought presidential campaigns in history.

Organizers say there is unprecedented enthusiasm for the ceremony itself as well as the balls and parties throughout Washington in the days surrounding it.   Continued...

<p>A sign of congratulations hangs on a lamppost in front of the Kluczynski Federal Office Building (L) which houses Obama's transition office in downtown Chicago November 12, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</p>