Diary of “The Weirdest Eurovision Ever?” – Day 7: Here in the Calm after the Storm…

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 7 – Here in the Calm after the Storm

After the mammoth run of rehearsals that was Day 6, Day 7 feels almost like a holiday – almost. There are still rehearsals today, but as only 8 countries will be on stage and we’re expecting and a 1:30PM finish time, it feels like that half day of primary school you got before breaking up for Christmas or Easter and everyone is in good spirits. Exhausted, giggly spirits. We love covering rehearsals, but considering I was still Eurovisioning away at 10:40PM last night editing articles and recording content, a half day is greatly appreciated!

According to the live chat on the online press centre more acts are here to slay… our jibe that hopefully the Ahoy has enough buckets and mops for all this bloodshed seemed to go over most people’s heads… which in some ways makes it all the more hilarious.

Today’s rehearsals, much like the last set of second rehearsals all show improvements. Tornike from Georgia felt much more on board with things, while Albania’s Anxhela continues to amaze me with her sheer presence on that cavernous stage. The Black Mamba’s run-throughs for Portugal gave each of us writing for Eurovision Ireland a feeling that this could be the song that gets accompanied by a shower of golden confetti during the winner’s reprise… premonition? Sleep deprived ramble? We’ll have to wait and see! Bulgaria’s Victoria gave a very confident run through of Growing Up Is Getting Old and Finland blew away the cobwebs with their rock entry. Latvia’s vocals have a similar quality of making you sit bolt upright, but I still fear for its chances with the staging. Some are suggesting Switzerland had a shaky rehearsal run today, but I didn’t seem anything really wrong with it. Gjon’s vocals are beyond reproach and the staging is striking. My biggest concern was that it’s so similar visually and stylistically to France that I wonder if they’re going to cancel each other out. Denmark rounded off rehearsals with their colourful romp, heralding the arrival of the weekend! I went outside for the first time in what feels like days… I’d almost forgotten that the words PROHIBITED TO FILM aren’t emblazoned across everywhere I look in the real world…

Although there might not be much in terms of the contest to report on today, Day 7 at Eurovision is a strange anniversary. It marks a full week of being in the press centre and by now we’ve all settled in. This year of course we’ve been settled in from Day 1 as we’re following everything from home. But at your more traditional contest, by Day 7 you’ve settled into your new home and feel less like a tourist in the host city. You’ve developed your little routines, even within the span of a week, . Your preferred bus stop that you use to head to the arena every morning, standing among the locals heading to work. The little corner shop where you pick up your chocolate and caffeinated (lots of caffeinated) drinks from on your way home from rehearsals. It’s amazing how quickly we adapt to being somewhere and feel at home there. As you are so settled, as more fans arrive for Eurovision week you find you’re the person they turn to for help. You know the city and help them navigate working out how to buy tickets for the bus from that clunky old machine (“No, it doesn’t like the new coins, try those ones,”) and you step in to help when you hear panicked voices arguing which is right stop for the arena. It sounds silly, but it’s the moments like that which make you realise how quickly you’ve started to feel at home in Vienna/Stockholm/Kyiv/Lisbon/Tel Aviv.

You also start making connections with people too. Not only new friends in the press and smiling press centre volunteers, but also those background characters that make up our lives. People we recognise to look at, but don’t know anything about them. Whether it’s the guy selling hot dogs outside a metro station in Vienna, (who you’ve been seeing a lot since you have only have €40 left to last you the rest of the week), the elderly Portuguese woman who openly glowers at you from her apartment window every time you walk past and the artful Ukrainian vender on the train who sells used diaries and rubber gloves to commuters (but strangely only between Dnipro and Livoberezhna stations…). Even people at bus stops and on the metro going about their lives. It’s a little glimpse into the lives of ordinary Europeans we see every year and for me it never gets old. Wherever you wander in the world, you see the same stories with different faces and circumstances, but in many ways they’re all so similar. So mundane, but strangely wonderful too. It’s perhaps one of the things I miss most about the contest – realising that Eurovision has helped me to feel at home in so many places around the world. Being so exhausted has clearly made me pensive…

A bit of a brief diary entry tonight as not much has happened in terms of the contest. That and I’m falling asleep at the key board… but what a week it’s been! And the best of it is, it’s not over yet! We still have all the fun, games and shocks of week 2 at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 to look forward to!!

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

If you want a more detailed look at what the team thought of Day 7’s rehearsals at Eurovision 2021, take a look at our Live Blog of Day 7 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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