Inaugural crowd is estimated at close to 2 million

A tremendous crowd filled Washington for Barack Obama's presidential inauguration yesterday, surpassing by many estimates the mark set more than four decades ago when 1.2 million people are thought to have watched Lyndon B. Johnson take the oath of office in 1965.

Early indications were that easily more than a million people, and perhaps 2 million, may have journeyed to the National Mall and surrounding areas for the swearing-in of the first African-American president.

The National Park Service - long relied on to calculate crowds for large Washington events - is expected to provide a firmer estimate later in the week, according to a spokesman. Crowd counting is an inexact and controversial business. Experts cautioned that it would be difficult to quickly calculate the size of the gathering.

The Washington Post reported a crowd

of 1.8 million.

The park service has not done official estimates in more than a decade, obeying an order by Congress to stop in the aftermath of controversy over how many people attended the 1995 Million Man March. Then, estimates varied from 400,000 to more than 1 million.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan's inauguration drew about 500,000 people; President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration drew about 800,000, according to the park service.