Diary of “The Weirdest Eurovision Ever?” – Day 1: Come in Rotterdam, are you there?

Let’s face it… the last 18 months have been anything but ordinary!! And in these strange times of COVID, social distancing and frantic hand washing, even Eurovision has undergone massive changes to ensure the event we know and love can go ahead. We all knew it was going to be a contest unlike any other – but just how different will it be?

In this diary series, Eurovision Ireland regular James will give you his daily personal thoughts about the goings on backstage at Eurovision 2021, both through the lens of a contest being hosted during these unprecedented times and as someone following rehearsals from afar. Will it be The Weirdest Eurovision Ever? Quite possibly!

Day 1 – Come in Rotterdam, are you there?

Anyone who has ever been to a Eurovision press centre knows that things rarely go according to plan, especially on Day 1. There are always issues to iron out, so rather than scream “THIS IS THE WORST CONTEST EVER!!” the more seasoned members of the press smile at the madness and wait for things to settle. Today has seen plenty of that – though admittedly shouting at slow buffering in your laptop is a new slant on an old favourite… at least when the feed cuts out in the press centre, you’re still physically in the host city!

Usually, the first order of business when going into a Eurovision press centre is staking out a decent spot at the tables so you have a good view of the monitors for the next two weeks. A lot of the day is also dedicated to the social side of things: saying hello to people you haven’t seen (in many cases) since the last contest. There are friends I have made through Eurovision and known for many years – but we’ve never met up the country we both live in! We’ve hung out and eaten amazing street food in the neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv and wandered around Stockholm in the small hours of the morning, but meet up at home? Where’s the fun in that?!

But of course, this year the first day of rehearsals have been very different… instead of the hugs and smiles for our international friends, our chat apps are lighting up and the mics on our Zoom calls drop. Instead of a shiny new press centre, we’re surrounded by the same four walls we’ve been staring at for months now. You might think that all sounds really depressing, and would somehow dampen the day. Admittedly, in the run up to today I noticed that perhaps I wasn’t as excited as I usually would be about the approaching contest. But we all know what a powerful force the comradery of our Eurovision friendships can be. Within minutes of things getting started, I’m laughing with everyone and eagerly awaiting what’s coming next. Yes, it is different – different isn’t always bad.

Today’s countries made for an interesting group. Lithuania kicked us off with The Roop’s trademark high-energy antics and will be a real treat for the televoters – perfect way to start a contest! Sadly, didn’t get to see much of Slovenia’s rehearsal, but the 10 seconds we caught appeared understated but poised – Ana is an accomplished singer with an incredible voice, so sure she did well. Russia might have provided one of the day’s most memorable moments with Manizha whirling around stage in her giant babushka housecoat. She’s a real firework of a performer and it shows! Sweden rounded off this morning’s rehearsals with a solid performance from Tusse, though we collectively weren’t sure about the gloves…

After a break, we were all looking forward to seeing Australia’s Montaigne in action with what we thought was her live on tape showing… instead we got a 30 seconds behind the scenes video that gave us very little to go on… nevermind! Hopefully we’ll get to see Australia’s full performance later in the week. North Macedonia’s Vasil gave an incredibly polished rendition of Here I Stand with striking yet simple stage work and was easily my favourite today – very well done Vasil! Ireland rounded off the day’s rehearsals with a very complex and sophisticated routine with Lesley scurrying around the pages of what looks like a pop-up book. Visually it grabs your attention and as we were promised it’s something we haven’t seen on the Eurovision stage before, Ireland have definitely delivered with that!

The first night in the host city after rehearsals is always an exciting affair, and something I’ll miss. But while it’s easy to lament what Eurovision won’t be like this year, I’m still happy it’s going ahead. As I said, different isn’t always bad. It’s going to be unusual, and I think most of us in the Eurovision bubble are feeling that. But any such qualms will be gone by tomorrow when the next set of countries take to the stage – and with the likes of Norway, Cyprus and Azerbaijan having their first rehearsals, I suspect it’ll be a wild ride!

Signing off for today – thank you Europe, and good night!

If you want a more detailed look at what the team thought of Day 1’s rehearsals at Eurovision 2021, take a look at our Live Blog of Day 1 to see what the team made of those countries and their performances.

Author: James Scanlan
Source: Eurovision Ireland
Banner Image Source: Adapted from realireland.ie

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