Eurovision Song Contest diary day 1

The first day of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest gave us, just as expected, some starting problems, some though to a degree where it can be described as a scandal, but it is not all negative. The Russians do impress in some ways.

I arrived Saturday afternoon after a fine flight which though ended with the Russians onboard clapping when the captain brought the plane down. That might be normal in some cultures, but I am certainly not use to it from Scandinavia. It is like you are not expecting the captain to do so and therefore celebrate him when he manages. Maybe the Russians are so use to plane crashes that they actually don’t take it for granted that they get down safely?

We went to the accreditation centre to pick up our accreditation badge and check out the facilities before it would all start on Sunday. That should later prove to be a very wise idea as it saved us from a lot of hassle. It was clear that several things were not yet ready, but the Russians were not really worried. Everything would be done overnight – including finishing the stage which really only looked half done.

Back at the hotel we were met with an enormous warm breeze from the ventilation system. The weather had already surprised me as it was actually quite perfect with around 20 degrees Celsius in day time, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with a hotel room offering 30 degrees and no way of turning it off as it is a central system for the entire 1800 rooms. It is simply so hot that basically everyone is complaining about it, but the hotel won’t do anything about it. In Russia it is not so easy to change things! We had to have the window open, but even on 20th floor there are so much traffic noises that it keeps you from sleeping. Another thing that keeps me from sleeping is the very hard and not so comfortable beds. It is a hard thin madras on a wooden case and if offers no flexibility and body support. It is almost impossible not to wake up with brushes – that is if you get any sleep at all.

I think I got 2 hours of bad sleep and Sunday morning I could understand that the others basically were in the same situation. Heating, traffic noise and very uncomfortable beds were affecting all of us. And this is actually an official hotel, the largest in Moscow where 17 of the delegations this year are staying at! I am hoping that the artists have been giving suites and that these are somehow of a better standard as otherwise I can imagine many participants being close to leaving after the first night!

Sunday morning we were proved right in picking up the accreditation badge the day before. When the accreditation centre opened at 8:00 in the morning journalist were lining up to get their badge so that they could come in to the rehearsals and press conferences, but the security had been told to keep a high security not allowing people in without accreditation badge. Fine enough, but unfortunately they took it a bit too serious and didn’t allow anyone in to the accreditation centre to pick up their badges if they didn’t have their badge. It took several hours and a direct order from the top ones before the security was lifted for the accreditation centre. Yes, it isn’t easy to change things in Russia. Unfortunately it wasn’t just journalist being held back. The Belgium singer had to wait in the very long queue of frustrated people that couldn’t get their badge and therefore didn’t have access to the facilities. This led to the Belgium rehearsal and press conference being delayed as the singer wasn’t there, but was stopped by the security people.

Another of the things that really doesn’t work is the so called pigeonholes where the delegations leave their press materials for the many journalists working there. The pigeon holes are very small and nothing larger than a CD fits in them. As most of the material is minimum A4 size and often t-shirts, chocolates or a bottle of red wine are included as well. Where will all that fit? Fact is that no one knows. Furthermore they came up with the idea of putting keys in them and just let those key hang there waiting for people to go and pick up the key for their pigeon hole. There was no security around it and the result was that some people were taking keys for several pigeon holes in order to get more CD’s and some found that their key for their reserved pigeon hole were already taken. Why the Russians believed so much in human honesty that they didn’t foresaw this problem is quite a good question.

I am impressed with the weather, it really is a lot better than I had expected. I am also quite impressed with a new system used at press conferences. Journalists can put on a headset which has three switches; English, French and Russian. Some translators are listing to everything being said at the press conferences and translate it all. With a slight delay you can then listen to what is being said in any of the three languages. Smart system yes, but unfortunately it does mean that there is quite a lot happening in Russian and if you ask a question in English you might actually want to hear the answer in English without waiting for a translation that might first come when next question has been asked. But the idea is fabulous.

It will be two hard weeks where the average working day easily can be 10-12 hours so I decided to take it easy on this first day. I went to a few rehearsals, a few press conferences, had some chats with those friends I just see once a year for the Eurovision Song Contest and just settling in. And then it was back to the 30 degrees Celsius hotel room and the very uncomfortable beds. I must be honest and say that I am really at a point where I don’t know if I can live like this for two weeks with just two hours sleep per night if I am lucky. I do unfortunately keep it as an option to return to Denmark before time if things don’t change. The whole atmosphere here is generally quite good. The Russians try to be nice and friendly, but the level of English is quite low and without speaking the language and understanding the byrocratic Russian system you might have quite some problems getting anywhere. But let’s take it day by day…

Source: EuroVisionary
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