lessons from America

I was there – Obama @ Invesco stadium

I was there.

I was there to witness history being made.
I was there to celebrate Obama’s nomination with 70,000 Democrats (and a lot of media).
I was there to stand up for change.

I was lucky enough at the last minute to get a pass inside Invesco Field at Mile High, to give the stadium its full name.  Due to the hassles in getting in, I had missed some of the early entertainment and warm-up acts. In fact I heard but not saw the first few speeches whilst in another queue: for hot dogs – one of the ‘healthier’ food options available from the stadium’s catering outlets. Bill Richardson impressed more for his speaking in both English and Spanish than for his content. 

There I found myself inside, only two hours before Obama was due to go stage and officially accept the Democratic party’s nomination as presidential candidate – America’s first black nominee. This was about to the moment I’d been hoping and waiting for. And, even with the hassles of getting in, it was just amazing to actually be there. 

If Denver is the Mile High City, then my seat felt it was located 1.5 miles high. Up in the ‘nose-bleed section’ as someone put it, maybe ten rows from the very top of this 75,0000 capacity stadium. Certainly a wow factor when I first emerged: all those rows of seats, all those people, all that noise. Incredible.

This view directly down to the stage / podium doesn’t do justice to the steep banks of seating all around the stadium or the sheer numbers of people here. But you can see the platforms that each of the TV networks had set up to use as their studios, housing their teams of commentators and analysts covering proceedings live (and probably often talking over the speeches!)

I took my seat just in time to see Stevie Wonder … and one of the big crescendos of excitement within the stadium. “Signed, sealed and delivered” was Barack’s signature tune during the primaries, played immediately after he finished his speeches. Very moving seeing it performed live, and a cue for lots of dancing and flag-waving.

Al Gore took to the podium to thunderous applause. He seemed genuinely touched and pleased with his reception. Like Kerry the night before, here was a Democrat presidential candidate who is more popular and better at delivering speeches at this Convention than in the one in which he was nominated.

As the sun set behind the stadium …

Veep candidate Joe Biden stepped out. He is loving this Convention; and people here are loving him back. Quite a short speech by Biden, more putting in an appearance and pushing home a few well crafted attacks on Bush-McCain then anything more substantial. But he’d done the heavy-lifting on Wednesday.


Interestingly, there seemed to be many more African-Americans in the audience than I’d seen at events and in crowds in the preceding days.


August 30, 2008 Posted by | Denver Diary | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Denver Diary – Thu 28 Aug

Protests, marches, queues, crowds and speeches sums up my day.  Sunburn and aching feet too, but they are hazards of the job. More soon, just some sleep needed first.

Update: here’s my story from this historic day, as promised. 

I had somewhere to be this morning: a locally-organised Obama march. As I wasn’t expecting to get into Invesco stadium for the Obama rally later in the day, I wanted to at least meet some non-Convention Obama supporters and also participate myself in a show of solidarity. The added bonus was that the march route would take me to the gates of the stadium – so I’d get a chance to see the venue and maybe some of the early build-up the evening’s rally.

The starting point for the march was Lincoln Park – another base for ‘Recreate 68’ activities. Arrived just as another march was coming to its destination at the park and turning into a rally with music and speeches. As far as I could tell, the main protest was about the treatment of immigrants, but there were some other elements too. Never worked out what the ‘constitution group’ was all about though, but it was a pretty impressive piece of protest artwork.


In one corner of the park, conspicuously separate from the other activities going on, were a group of Obama supporters gathering for the march. Some people, including these two women from the Denver area, had made their own, personal and meaningful placards. The organisers had also made handmade signs for those of us who arrived empty-handed.


And so, a group of maybe 50 of us set off, led by the‘Obama-car’ – the ultimate in fan-modding! Being an officially-sanctioned march along the designated parade route, the main highway (Colfax) was closed in one direction for us, and so we had a traffic-free and rather pleasant walk towards the stadium. En route there was plenty of cheering and placard-waving as the oncoming traffic generally responded positively and honked their horns or waved at us. I chatted to a couple of the marchers: locals who were supporting Obama for foreign policy, pro-science and ’change’ reasons. Not everyone was true believers: at least one had been a Hillary supporter and against Obama before he was for him.


The march took us round the outer perimeter of Invesco stadium and to the ‘protest pen’ – a sea of chainlink fences set out in a parking lot. Once there, a few words of thanks were given and the organiser ended with a pro-Obama rap which he had first seen on Youtube. It was a much lower key, smaller event than I had been hoping for; but it was rather moving to see these ‘ordinary folks’ (as opposed to the politicos / hardcore activists) so fired up and self-mobilising.


Since I was now in spitting distance of Invesco (a not advisable activity given the amount of police), I wanted to hang around there, awaiting news of whether my ticket quest had been successful. So to kill time I had a look at all the merchandise stalls – some crazy stuff being sold, most of which I avoided buying.


Finally at 2pm the call came in to say my new mate from Indiana had come up trumps with a pass for me. Still scope for problems though. My guy didn’t arrive to the vicinity of the stadium til after 5pm and then headed to a completely separate entrance from me This was after I’d done my fair share of queuing and hanging around in the hot sun. In the end the ticket was left with a volunteer called Abi, who was checking passes. I had to first jog a mile or so to find her checkpoint and then ask around to work out who she was. Such a relief to finally locate her – and my pass.

In the meantime the crowds and the queues kept on growing. I hadn’t experienced anything like that mass of people trying to get into one place since my 8 hour madness waiting in line to file past the Queen Mum’s coffin! The Brits did it better on that occasion. For here the DNC seemed to have under-estimated the logistical challenges, especially the hot weather and miles of queues. It took several hours for free water to start to be provided, and little provision seemed to be in place for those with mobility issues or who didn’t have the stamina to queue.

August 29, 2008 Posted by | Denver Diary | , , , , | Leave a comment