Obama's also not the only president to invite celebrities to his inauguration, though they're not always quite Beyonce-level. Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama invited some of Nigeria's biggest film stars to his inauguration this year ("Nollywood" movies are massively popular in Ghana). In Iran, after several senior clerics and political figures decided to boycott Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's inauguration following the controversial 2009 election, the Iranian president filled the gaps with showbiz figures including the national football team coach, a weightlifter known as "Iranian Hercules," several actors, and a disgraced children's TV presenter whose show had recently been pulled from the air over a toy monkey named "Ahmadinejad." (Evidently, the president was in a forgiving mood.)
Inauguration rituals can often become proxy political battles. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy initially demanded to be sworn in last year in front of parliament rather than -- according to tradition -- in front of the Hosni Mubarak-appointed Supreme Court, but eventually acquiesced, which was seen as a sign of the military's continued influence. When Peruvian President Ollanta Humala took power in 2011, he pointedly swore allegiance to Peru's 1979 constitution rather than the country's current constitution, which had been put in place by his rival, former President Alberto Fujimori.
Inauguration crowds are not always particularly respectful. When Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in before Mexico's congress last year, and as protests raged outside, leftist lawmakers unfurled a black banner inside the parliament chamber reading "Mexico in mourning" -- referring to the thousands killed by drug violence during his predecessor's administration.
Inaugural addresses are usually uplifting testaments to national unity and better days to come, though there are some exceptions to the rule. When The Gambia's eccentric strongman President Yahya Jammeh was sworn in for a fourth term in 2012, he accused his citizens of laziness, vowed to "wipe out almost 82 percent of those in the work force," and warned that "I will be more dangerous in the next five years." Stirring oratory indeed.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts might have goofed on the precise wording of Obama's inaugural oath in 2009, but in terms of drama it didn't compare to Papua New Guinea's 2012 swearing-in, when the country's governor-general -- technically the representative of the Queen of England -- refused to swear in Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who had taken power controversially during his predecessor's illness, and abruptly walked out of the ceremony to "study the documents." He returned to swear O'Neill in three hours later.
Then, of course, there's Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose inauguration celebrations were held on Jan. 10 despite the fact that he was out of the country at the time for cancer treatment in Havana, and could not actually take the oath of office. Nonetheless, supporters, as well as diplomats and three foreign heads of state, dutifully gathered for the "inauguration" of Chávez's fourth term.
Some countries are a bit more deluxe than others. Vladimir Putin was sworn in at the lavish Grand Kremlin Hall, once the seat of the czars. The ceremony reportedly cost $664,000 -- half of it spent on commemorative medals for the guests -- and was followed by a $400,000 banquet. This is pretty rich by international standards and infuriated the Russian opposition, though it's pretty paltry compared with the estimated $150 million spent on Obama's 2009 inauguration. This year's event is expected to be far more modest (no Bruce Springsteen concert on the Mall, for instance). But when it comes to swearing in new presidents, the United States still goes bigger than anyone else.