The muffled whips of the Marine and U.S. Government helicopters sounded a long-standing echo. They didn’t need an announcement — the steady heart beat of the wings cutting through the air could be heard miles away, declaring the government officials’ eminent arrival on the rugby fields of South Green on Sunday.
It was a practice arrival, but nonetheless, it gathered an impressive crowd.
Dozens of people flooded toward the fields, traveling from every direction, some even running toward the field with a specific yet foreign purpose.
Is the president here? Who is landing in the field?
The spectators arrived at their destination, taking in the magnificent view of the helicopters before them. The perimeter of the field was quickly packed shoulder to shoulder with students and adults alike, snagging photographs with their Smart phones while the wind from the rapid propellers shot dust and grass in their hair and eyes. The sight, though, was too extraordinary to turn away.
And this was only the beginning of the excitement.
A spirit of anticipation and anxiousness defines the political uproar rooted in the heart of Athens, stemming from the arrival (and departure) of the helicopters in the fields.
But the long-time preparation for the election in Athens had just begun, which will reach its culmination on Wednesday with the arrival of President Barack Obama on campus. The gate to Campus Green, which will be fenced off for the event, opens at 3 p.m.
The Ohio University College Democrats also have been anxiously helping to prepare for Obama’s arrival.
“We’ve been distributing tickets to anyone who’d like one since Sunday and trying to make sure everyone’s aware of this incredible opportunity. We’ve also been actively recruiting volunteers to help host the event,” said Kelsey Tucker, a sophomore and member of the OUCDs. “Personally, I’m thrilled. Because Athens is generally pretty blue, I didn’t ever think he’d make it down here, especially since he didn’t come in 2008.”
Thousands of tickets have been given out for free with the presentation of a student I.D. card, explained OUCD President Shannon Welch. However, the exact number of tickets that have been given out is difficult to determine.
On Wednesday, the majority of volunteers at the event will be members of the OU College Democrats. Athens residents and assorted students will also join them in providing assistance with lines and ushering.
Some republicans are less enthused, such as President of the Ohio University College Republicans Ryan Dilworth. The senior explained that Romney’s plan for higher education makes a lot more sense than Obama’s, and that his administration will create more jobs for grad students.
“I’m not going. I just don’t have the time. I have more important things like class to do. Tomorrow, I get the feeling that he is going to be talking mainly about college students and student loans and things like that, and I know I won’t agree with what he will be preaching about,” Dilworth said.
Not all republicans will sit out on the event, however.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for people to see the current president speak regardless of political views,” said Angela Cordell, a junior and Social Chair of the Ohio University College Republicans. “One of the reasons he chose to come here is because the campus is largely a liberal campus and, with Ohio being a swing state, this is an easy place for him to gain supporters and get positive feedback.”
Cordell plans to attend the speech on College Green despite her opposing political views because she doesn’t know how many times she will get to see a current president speak on campus.
Most of the members of the College Republicans also are attending, she affirmed.
The OUCDs, however, aren’t the only people working diligently to prepare for this event. The Athens Police Department (ADP) and Ohio University Police Department (OUPD) are coordinating with the Secret Service and the university to create the most secure venue on the green for Obama to deliver his speech.
“We (OUPD, APD and the Secret Service) are all coordinating preparations for the visit on Wednesday,” said Chief Andrew Powers of the OUPD via email. “However, I can’t speak in any detail about what those preparations involve. OUPD was involved in the helicopter landing on Sunday,” he added.
The ADP could not disclose any information either.
According to The Presidential Act of 2000, the Secret Service is authorized to participate “in the planning, coordination and implementation of security operations at special events of national significance.”
Because of governmental policy regarding this event, details are private and high security is a top priority for preventing unwanted issues or dangers.
Parts of Court Street, College Street, Parkway Drive, University Terrace and Union Street are all expected to be blocked off, stated Welch.
“I think the security is pretty standard. The president is coming and it is an outdoor event, so there definitely has to be significant security measures,” she added.
College Green was set up for the event on Tuesday, with tents, bleachers and fencing littering the ground. The green became a maze to pass through for students, curious Athens residents and workers alike. Despite the high security and preparations necessary for a successful event, though, the expectant political buzz resonating from students generates hype among the entire Athens community.