Glen woke up with yellow phlegm and kept getting up. We still managed to stay in bed until 10-ish. We went down the road to the SPAR and bought stuff for a breakfast and for a soup for lunch. It was raining and the day was not looking pleasant. Glen didn’t want to do much and I didn’t have a burning desire to see the sights (though if it had been a better day, I might have been a bit more upset about it).
We came home, cooked a yummy omelette, ate chocolate croissants, had tea – it was lovely. Glen started cooking soup. Ben and Dion came around at about lunchtime. We had soup, chatted. Ben returned to their hotel to collect the Australian flags they’d forgotten for Eurovision. Glen had a nap. Dion and I played on our computers. Ben returned. Glen awoke. We ate soup. Had some lemon-flavoured Stiegel beer. It was a wonderful chilled out quiet day.
Not so chilled out for Reuban whose ticket seller didn’t show up as arranged at 3pm and so was stuck without a ticket. He went to the venue, urged on by us to try for a scalper, meanwhile Dave was running late. We rearranged plans to meet outside the stadium, and the four of us left the apartment and caught the train to the stadium. Dave was waiting for us at the station, which was convenient because we then didn’t have to search for him in the crowd to give him his ticket.
We walked up to the stadium and joined a general mass of people and waited to get in. It was only lightly raining but we had our ponchos on anyway. We hadn’t brought umbrellas as they would not be allowed into the venue. The email from the organisers that Dion had received said to get there two hours before the time you wanted to get in. As it started at 9, we thought getting there at 6 to be sure to be in by 8 would be plenty of time. What we didn’t check was the ticket, which said doors wouldn’t open until 7pm. This was a bit of a stuff up on the part of the organisers. We waited.
Eventually we were let in, past a plethora of umbrellas that had been unceremoniously launched into the garden beds on the other side of the barriers. As soon as we got through the ticket checking part, Reuban found us. He’d managed to get a ticket from a German woman and so, despite the annoyance of having already paid for a ticket he didn’t receive, he had made it in and the night could begin.
We excitedly hurried to the merchandise booth to buy a few things…though a lot had already sold out because of the semi-final, jury, and family shows. Someone didn’t calculate the attendees’ desire to buy branded merchandise. Glen and I bought some Eurovision pins. We found the door we needed. We had standing-only tickets. Four tickets were for the north door, and one was for the south. We argued to get all of us in together, which was fortunate because, despite assurances in the email that we could rejoin once inside, we couldn’t as there was a big walkway down the middle. (Are you starting to detect a theme?)
We found a place to stand in a reasonable middle part of the stage. The whole area quickly filled and apart from Ben, everyone’s vision was impaired. After getting some drinks, we decided to move more towards the back and the right where the view, though farther back, was clearer. For a time. It then filled up again.
There was a bit of pre-show entertainment, the ‘Kiss Cam’ being a particular highlight. The cameras would focus on two people and wait until they saw themselves on the screen and then kissed. What I found really amazing and heartening was that it didn’t just focus on a man and a women, but also two men or two women, and their kisses got loud applause and cheers. I thought how recent this development is and how, not too long again, the sight of a public passionate kiss between to members of the same sex would have made the audience uncomfortable, or just wouldn’t have been done.
The lead-up to the show going live was intense and the emotions and excitement in the stadium were high. This was another of the highlights for me, this great swelling of common purpose and joy. This you don’t get watching it on the TV at home. However, this was probably one of the only few benefits of being there over watching it on TV.
We were taught a dance at once point, similar (but not as good) as the one in Norway a few years ago. The lessons went on for a bit and we were told we’d be doing them through the “Building Bridges” song (the theme for this year’s show), but the whole night went by with no signal to start doing it. We were left confused and unfulfilled.
The acts ticked by one by one, all the way to number 27. Serbia was a real highlight and just went off. Sweden was good (though I think a lot of his hype and support came from nifty graphics and his good looks). Russia’s song was popular, and Italy’s…man, can they sing! Australia came on with much fanfare and Guy Sebastian did a good job. I liked the song more than I thought I would, and the kitsch value of having Australia participate was high.
The voting went on forever, with a few countries dropping out. Russia was looking like the hot favourite to win by halfway through, but then Sweden came out strong and blew all the competition away, leaving Russia and Italy far behind. People booed Russia whenever they got 12 points or moved into first place, which, while I understand and sympathise and empathise with the protest element, really smacked me as being unsportsmanly and rude. Sweden’s triumph was made all the sweeter because it came at Russia’s expense.
The highlight of the voting came when Lee Lin Chin gave Australia’s tally. Maybe it was just me, but the crowd (probably the dozens of Aussies in the audience) went wild for her as she appeared on the screen. What an excellent choice as our vote caller. (Nigella Lawson was the UK’s choice, and she got a loud applause too.)
The show finished at 1:15am, Sweden’s dominance called early. He sang his song again and then we started moving. I’m really glad we made the effort to go to Eurovision, and to be able to share it with friends made this a great experience. Would I go again though? Not any time soon and here’s why:
It really is made for television. There were 10,000 people in the stadium, yet millions watching at home. As a result, the audio is calibrated for the at-home audience. I didn’t watch any semi-finals nor did I listen to the songs beforehand, purely because I wanted to be surprised. As a result, I didn’t know any of the songs and could barely hear all the words of the ones I did.
As a live audience member, you’re directed to applause, hold up your phones with lights either facing the stage or away from it, and you’re not given a very good view. The stage is far away (unless you’re standing right at the front), and the cameracrew move onto the stage to get the best view of the singer and the act. The screens on the side of the stage don’t show everything all the time, cutting to black more often than not, so you don’t get to see all that goes on anyway.
And standing for seven hours was not fun. My back, feet and legs were absolutely killing me by the end of the concert. I think my knees might have swollen. Next time, if there is a next time, we’ll opt for a seat instead.
The other thing we missed, because our experience of Eurovision had until now been TV-centric, was the commentary from Julie Zemiro and Sam Something. They’re hilarious and provide another dimension to the competition. Now that I’ve been, I don’t feel I miss out on much by watching it on TV instead of being in the live audience. What would be nice is to actually watch it live, rather than as a delayed telecast because of the voting and the announcement of the winner. I’m sure we spoiled it for a lot of people back home with announcing who the winner was on social media before people in Australia got to see it. Watching it in Europe with friends at a party would be a good way to go.
We joined the general throng of people leaving the stadium, went to the train station, and despite exhaustion and agony, we went to a gay bar for an hour or so to have some drinks. Around 2:30 we decided that we were well and truly bruised pumpkins and headed our separate ways to find out beds. Glen and I had the earliest flight the next day (10:30am), meanwhile Ben was leaving around lunchtime, and Dave, Reuban and Dion were leaving on Monday.
We said our goodbyes, very sad to be saying farewell to Ben and Dion again, especially as we won’t see them until Christmas now. Hanging out with them doing nothing during the day but enjoying each other’s company (even if we all were on our own personal devices at the same time for part of it) was a real highlight of my day. It felt like being on a relaxing holiday, which is such a rarity.
Glen and I went to bed around 3/3:30, already dreading having to get up at 7 to get ready for our flight. The things we do for fun!