Obama To Speak Before More than 80,000 at “The Diaphragm”

By Jaketapper

Jul 7, 2008 1:10pm

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, will on Thursday night, August 28, 2008, accept the presidential nomination of his party at Denver’s INVESCO Field at Mile High stadium.

The 77,160 football fans who witnessed the Denver Broncos’ loss to the Green Bay Packers last October constituted the arena’s largest ever attendance. But with thousands of chairs added to the field, the crowd for Obama’s speech will likely top 80,000. That would be the largest group to whom Obama has spoken, topping when the Decembrists opened for him in May at Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon.

"By bringing the last night of the Convention out to the people, we will be able to showcase Barack Obama’s positive, people-centered vision for our country in a big way," said former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Calling the pageant an "Open Convention," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe announced today that the campaign is holding a raffle for donors: "If you make a donation of $5 or more between now and midnight on July 31st, you could be one of 10 supporters chosen to fly to Denver and spend two days and nights at the convention, meet Barack backstage, and watch his acceptance speech in person. Each of the ten supporters who are selected will be able to bring one guest to join them."

As with every event held at the field, there was of course today some booing as well.

"I really can’t believe that Sen. Obama wants to heap yet more expense on the city of Denver by moving his nomination speech from the Pepsi center to Invesco Field," Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams told Denver ABC affiliate KMGH-TV. "The Democrats are already $11 million short of their goal and now Senator Obama is having the discourtesy of piling more debt on the Democratic party here in Colorado for the convention. I think it’s unfortunate. My heart goes out to the Democratic party in Colorado for this unbelievable show of discourtesy by Senator Obama."

The stadium has a rather bizarre nickname. In 2001, the chief executive of Invesco Funds Group threatened to sue the Denver Post after columnist Woody Paige reported that one "key executive" said the stadium was internally at the company called "the Diaphragm," because of the belief at Invesco Funds that the park resembles a birth control device. Invesco exec Mark Williamson eventually took back the threat after he discovered the nickname was true.

Perhaps befitting a candidate who seems to regard himself as the political offspring of two 1960s icons, Obama’s speech will coincide with the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous "I have a dream" speech and will be the first time a presidential candidate has accepted a major party’s nomination in such a large open arena since then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass., did so on July 15, 1960 at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles.

(Interestingly, that latter speech included Kennedy’s imploring that anti-Catholic bias not impact voters’ choices: "I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant.")

The rest of the Democratic convention — Monday, August 25 through Wednesday, August 27 — will be held at the Pepsi Center in Denver, a 21,000-seat venue that is home to the NBA Denver Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche.

- jpt

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