Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ole Miss: "We're ready to go"

Perhaps the easiest way to predict what Belmont can expect during the final month of debate setup is to look at the school that’s hosting the first debate: the University of Mississippi. Ole Miss is a mere 17 days away from hosting the presidential debate on national security and foreign policy, and the school says it’s ready to go.

“It looks good, if we can just get some good weather in here now,” said Andrew Mullins, executive director to the chancellor.

Weather delays caused problems in setting up the school’s media tent, a process Belmont started yesterday. Ole Miss received so much rain that the pad to be used for the tent floor had to be taken up, and the school had to re-sod the area.

Today at Belmont crews are placing metal beams on the pad they put down yesterday, but nothing has gone vertical yet.

Ole Miss also has an interesting twist to housing the media: Oxford residents are offering condos and private residences for rent during the debate, due to a lack of hotel rooms in the immediate area. There are enough hotels within a 60-mile radius, Mullins said, but some are choosing to stick closer.

As of last Wednesday, at least 11 condos had been rented out, Mullins said.

“We still have quite a few properties waiting for folks to rent them, and there’s still quite a few hotel rooms that are in the 60-mile radius,” Mullins said. “They’re going out pretty fast in some of these small towns close by.”

One final note: If the topic of the debate looks different, that’s because it is. The debate, which was initially planned to focus on domestic policy, was changed after the McCain and Obama campaigns requested to speak on foreign policy instead. Mullins said the request came after the Russian invasion of Georgia began in early August.

The Oct. 15 debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., will now be on domestic policy.

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