Diary of “The Weirdest Eurovision Ever?” – Day 9: Hang on, where was Day 8?

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 9 – Hang on, where was Day 8?

So the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that there wasn’t a diary entry for yesterday. No, I didn’t forget and it wasn’t that I couldn’t be bothered. Following a COVID vaccine on Friday afternoon and its side effects I’ve spent much of the weekend feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. As a result, I missed basically everything from Day 8 of rehearsals. I came to long enough to catch one of Spain’s last run-throughs, but wasn’t yet lucid enough to comment. You can find out what the rest of the team thought about Day 8 of Eurovision rehearsals here. So rather than write a entry based on nothing, I decided to wait till today – I’m sure you’ll forgive me 😉

Illness at Eurovision isn’t a new thing. Every year there’s a lurgy in the press centre and some of the contestants have even been known to suggest that this mysterious ailment cost them points or a spot in the final. Getting a lot of people from all over the continent together in one place, at close quarters in a press centre with no windows (I’ve been in several press centres and haven’t seen a window in any of them!), with limited rest and plenty of heightened emotions, it’s a wonder more people don’t become catatonic. It will be curious going forward how a more widespread post-2020 understanding of contagions will shape large gatherings like the contest. This year was always going to be a trial run of things, and even with a few COVID cases being reported among the delegations present in Rotterdam, I still feel like they’re doing a good job in keeping things as safe as they can be.

So today there are no rehearsals, but another important contest event is taking place: today is the Opening Ceremony and the (insert colour here) Carpet Event. For many fans, this glamourous gala is the official start of Eurovision week and of the contest itself – which for those of us who’ve been in the host city for over a week now and have been eating, sleeping and breathing Eurovision all that time, feels a bit odd to say! For those of you unfamiliar with the event, the Coloured Carpet Event (it was Orange in Tel Aviv, Blue in Lisbon and now Turquoise in Rotterdam!) is a chance for contestants to take a turn on the Hollywood style red-carpet dressed up to the nines, interacting with press, interviewers and fans that culminates in the lavish Opening Party – sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? And it is for the contestants… covering it as press though, can be a bit more of a challenge.

To ensure you get a good spot to get all the photos and interviews you possibly can means getting to the event rather early. Two hours minimum beforehand is a good bar to judge things by. This means, however, that as contestants strut down the carpet (usually in alphabetical order by country’s name in English), that by the time Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom come along, you’ve been stood there for at least 6 or 7 hours. Why not go and sit down, you say? Simple: you move, and you lose your spot. Even being in your spot still isn’t enough to discourage some from muscling in. Someone, a Eurovision commentator no less, elbowed me out of the way in Tel Aviv to interview his nation’s act on the carpet, before breezing away like nothing had happened. Most people are civilised, but moments like that make you wonder…

May in Europe is usually only the beginning of the warmer weather, but luckily for all those expensive frocks on show we’ve had fine weather for all the red carpet events I’ve attended – for fine weather, read 35 degrees and scorching. Lisbon wasn’t too bad with its sea breeze coming in off the Tagus, though when I got back to the apartment later that evening I was surprised at how much I had tanned in the course of one afternoon. Tel Aviv held their event towards the evening, so the sun was setting as the contestants set out along the carpet, but my first event in Kyiv felt like being in a furnace – not helped by the fact that (at first) the only water available on site was boiled. This was quickly rectified to the organisers’ credit and to the army of volunteers running up and down the carpet to ensure everyone gets enough bottled water, thank you so much – we literally couldn’t do it without you!

For all its physical and mental challenges (like trying to remember how to call out to people politely in Albanian, Georgian, Hungarian and Serbian to catch their attention) the Coloured Carpet Event is a goldmine for any Eurovision website. For some delegations who rarely grant interview requests, today may be the only time we get close to the contestant – or indeed, nearly not get close until the singer’s manager reminds them Ireland are in the same semi and can vote for them, at which point they are suddenly much more receptive! It also gives little gems you could never plan or imagine. Be it a photo gallery of a well known Norwegian that has massed thousands of hits for an idea that was jokingly proposed over drinks at the end of the day, to the hilarious interview with a certain Austrian that had us all howling with laughter for a good 10 minutes after she’d left – so much so that an Israeli news crew turned around to film us because we seemed to be having such a riotously good time! See, even Staggy works hard on the Coloured Carpet!

We have our little team traditions for the day too: the Eurovision Ireland team selfie (before the event starts, so we’re all still smiling and don’t need to be propped up) and our post-carpet dinner too. There usually isn’t much talking going on by this point, but we congratulate each other on surviving another year. The Coloured Carpet Event is an arduous day to say the least. It’s the sort of thing that if someone said to you a week later you needed to do it again, you’d cry. But a year between such events is just long enough to stunt the memories of your shoes filling with blood and the exhaustion you feel to start to look forward to it again. I know from all this you must be thinking I hate the Coloured Carpet Events, but missing it this year is bittersweet. I’ll miss the excitement and the comradery of my wonderful team as we keep each other laughing and smiling through this gruelling procession. But at the same time, the thought of watching this year’s show from a comfy chair with my feet up is heavenly!

This also marks a strange turning point for the contest. One moment we’re sat watching rehearsals and have seemingly ages to go. Now it’s just days away from the First Semi Final, with the Second Semi Final not long after that… by this time next week, we’ll have a winner – but for the life of us, no one here at Eurovision Ireland can say with any confidence who it’ll be just yet!

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

Don’t forget, you can watch the live stream of the Turquoise Carpet live from Rotterdam! Let the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 begin!

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

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