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LONDON — Today everything is on hold. Today is a day for breathing space.

Yesterday Britain's largest bank, RBS, parent of NatWest, lost almost 70 percent of its market capitalization in the space of a few hours. Yes, that's right its share prices dropped by almost 70 percent in a few hours. An even gloomier than usual Gordon Brown announced tens of billions of pounds more would be made available to the banking sector. No one now thinks that will be enough to avert a profound crisis.

But today the headline of the London Standard blares: "His Day has Come."

Everyone is looking and listening at what comes out of Barack Obama's mouth. Three months is a long time to wait for a new global leader. Hope is no longer the operant word about Obama. The economic situation is now too dire. There is a desperate need to feel secure ...

Right now I am in the student union bar at the London School of Economics. LSE probably has the most cosmopolitan mix of students in the country. In the walkway outside the usual pressure tables are in place with signatures being solicited for petitions for the usual causes: Justice for Palestinians, skydives for charity. But they aren't doing much business. It's Obama time. In the pub they are offering a special price on Budweiser, 1.50 pounds ... which isn't all that special if you ask me. They are watching the event on Fox News ... in the quieter snack bar down the stairs they've got CNN on.

In the far corner of the pub sit a perfect LSE focus group. Sarah Gelb from Houston, Sophie Count from Cambridge, England, and Nicole Singh from Singapore. Are they here for the beer or Obama? "A little of both" says Gelb. "No really, we're here for this." She nods towards the television.

The first applause of the ceremony is for Obama's daughters ... A few boos and some derisive clapping for George W. Bush ... pretty clearly this is an Obama crowd. And the first picture of Obama proves it, as a couple of hundred people whistle and cheer.

As an American who has lived abroad for a quarter of a century I have to admit ... the shots of the million plus jammed onto the Mall makes my eyes brim up a little.

Pastor Rick is causing a few derisive comments and couple of walkouts ... Nicole Singh can't take it ... she's gone.

Cynicsm leaves the room though as Obama steps up to take oath of office. And the cheers are like those I've heard for stadium rock Gods in their prime and then total silence. The quietest room of 20-year olds I have ever been in (including when I was 20.) Obama is speaking. The only moment of big cheers is for his line embracing "non-believers."

The speech over I asked Sarah Gelb if she teared up. "No." Her English friend Sophie confesses to a bit of misty eye. I aks them both, What about tomorrow? Are they optimistic ... their long delay in thinking about how to answer says everything.

Because today is Obama day ... tomorrow the crash continues.  

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http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/united-kingdom/090120/obama-day-london-0