Joe Biden's inauguration: Everything you need to know

·News Editor
·6-min read

The inauguration of Joe Biden will mark the official end of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

The day normally involves a massive ceremonial event attended by hundreds of thousands of people (Barack Obama lured a record crowd of 1.8 million in 2009). But this year will be very different indeed.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What time is Joe Biden’s inauguration?

While there will be pre-inauguration activities, the festivities are due to commence at 11:30am on Wednesday local time in Washington DC (3:30am Thursday AEDT) with the swearing in of Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris happening shortly after noon (4am AEDT), when the event has historically kicked off.

That means Aussie hardcore US politics fans will need to tune in from about 4am on Thursday in the eastern states of NSW and Victoria, 3am in Queensland and 1am on the west coast.

Joe Biden speaking a podium. Source: Getty
Joe Biden will be sworn in as president in less than 48 hours. Source: Getty

What is the significance of the inauguration?

The swearing in ceremony marks the official beginning of the incoming president and vice president’s tenure. It is held on the Western front of the US Capitol building, the facade of the building that faces the National Mall – a historically important site for the country.

It gives the incoming president a historically important chance to lay out their vision for the country and allow party members and voters the chance to celebrate the incoming administration.

According to Biden’s inauguration website, after he and Harris take their oaths of office, the 77-year-old president will “deliver an inaugural address laying out his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation.”

The address is considered quite a significant moment. It sets the tone for the presidential term and has led to some of the most memorable and quotable speeches in American politics, such as John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

In his 2017 speech, Donald Trump decried a country in decline, lamenting that the US “enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry” and “defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own”.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” he said, in the line that came to define his inauguration address.

What else is involved?

There are days of events leading up to the inauguration. On Wednesday (AEDT) there will be a memorial ceremony to pay tribute to those killed by Covid-19. The ceremony will include illuminating buildings, ringing church bells around the nation and a lighting ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool.

After being sworn in, Biden and Harris will complete the traditional “Pass in Review” inspection of troops from all service branches, a ritual that symbolises the peaceful transfer of power to a new Commander in Chief.

Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Harris and second gentlemen Douglas Emhoff will later visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by former presidents and first ladies Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama shown at the 2016 inauguration.
Trump will break a long tradition of a peaceful transition of power. Source: Getty

What celebrities will be involved in the inauguration?

Of course, nothing in the US would be complete without some celebrity star power. The inauguration is like the Super Bowl of presidential events, and entertainment has played an increasingly bigger role over the years.

Lady Gaga is set to sing the national anthem while Jennifer Lopez will also perform.

There will be a celebrity-filled bash in the evening following the swearing in ceremony. Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute primetime TV special with performances by Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.

“I was left speechless when I was asked to perform!” Lovato wrote on Instagram.

Timberlake said he and Clemons would perform their new song Better Days, adding: “This song was our way of doing what little we could to encourage everyone to stay hopeful.”

Clemons said: “To say that this is a dream come true, would be an understatement!”

A souvenir shop sells T-shirts commemorating Joe Biden's inauguration.
A souvenir shop sells T-shirts commemorating Joe Biden's inauguration but the usual fanfare will be absent this year. Source: Getty

How will Biden’s inauguration be different to usual?

Due to the pandemic and a violent riot carried out by Trump supporters at the Capitol building this month, this event will look different from other presidential inaugurations.

Biden had asked supporters to stay home and watch from afar as the coronavirus continues to ravage the country. The Washington DC mayor has also warned people to stay away.

In keeping with crowd size restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, traditional activities like the parade and the inaugural balls will be virtual. The live audience at the event has been restricted to members of Congress and one guest each, rather than the hundreds of thousands in who usually attend.

Security has been extremely tight around downtown DC following the political violence, which promises to produce an unusually militaristic backdrop to the swearing in.

The National Mall is sealed off to the public and the Washington Monument has been shut down as more than 21,000 troops patrol the city.

A supporter waves a Biden-Harris flag near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
A supporter waves a Biden-Harris flag near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Due to security concerns, the National Mall will be closed on Inauguration Day. Source: Getty

Will Trump attend the inauguration?

Another very noticeable difference in 2021 will be the absence of the outgoing president Donald Trump, who has rather ungraciously decided to boycott the event.

While Vice President Mike Pence plans to attend, Trump has still refused to concede electoral defeat and continues to excite supporters with baseless lies that the election was rigged.

Biden said he was more than happy with his predecessor’s decision, calling it “one of the few things we have ever agreed on”.

“It's a good thing him not showing up,” Biden said, calling the president an “embarrassment” to the nation and unworthy of the office.

Where can I watch the inauguration?

You’ll be able to follow along with all the latest at Yahoo News Australia while the Biden inauguration committee will also be live streaming the festivities via YouTube.

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