I was quite excited to attend Eurovision in Kyiv, my first real experience of a country in the old Soviet Union – I did not thought Estonia and Latvia were really presenting the Soviet experience. Ukraine has an embassy and so I visited it for the visa which went fairly smoothly. I cannot for the life of me remember with which airline I traveled there, there is no direct route so I must have gone via some other country but I just can’t figure out which. It may have been Turkish airline who had just started flying into South Africa or probably the Greek airline.
I arrived at the airport and was greeted by a lot of friendly volunteers, clearly happy that Eurovision came to their country. In 2005 I had not heard a single entry before coming to Eurovision and had no idea how the Ukraine entry sounded, but the volunteers seemed very happy with their country’s entry. Of course once I heard the song, I hated it even although there were words in many languages in the lyrics.
On my arrival, I also ran into the Austrian delegation who has just arrived with Global Kryner. I would have preferred them picking Nockalm Quintett (currently my top group) from the Volksmuzik genre.
Of course I was unable to get a single piece of Ukraine currency in South Africa and took UK pounds and US dollars. I went to the foreign exchange desk at the airport and the woman there had a book – she looked at each note I gave and whether this note was in the book. One 10 UK pound note was not in the book – I think the note was dated 1999, and she refused to exchange that saying they only except notes displayed in the book. Luckily I had enough other notes which she could turn into Ukraine money. I did not now that, otherwise I would have made sure before leaving South Africa that they gave me notes which were in the Ukraine book (obviously the book did not contain each and every year).
I waited at the airport for the arrival of my friend Armin Duttle from Switzerland. He came to his first Eurovision but first would go to his penfriend Sasha who lived 100 kilometers to the west of Kiev. Actually he wanted me to stay there as well but I did not feel like traveling 100 kilometers by train everyday to Eurovision.
Also arriving while waiting for Armin was Martti Immonen from Finland who came on crutches. He was helping Ukraine a lot during their first entry at Eurovision in Riga.
This was also the first time I met Graham Ridge and Mark. They had no idea how to get from the airport to the center of town. I walked around and asked and finally someone said there was a bus to take me, Armin, his Ukraine penfriend Sasha, Graham and Mark to the center free of charge since we came for Eurovision. My hotel, which Morten had booked, was ideally located, on the grounds of the venue. It is called Hotel “Sport”. This was the closest I had ever lived to the venue and it was actually just 500 meters to the press center and I actually walked often in between press conferences to the hotel to put my latest promo CD in the room.
I also had the best pigeonhole ever. Andy Mikheev had arrived before me and I think he had number 1. I had number 5 as they allocated pigeonholes as people arrive.
I had problems with accreditation as by now there were many people coming and they started dealing differently with people from non participating countries. Also the people from Ukraine I spoke to in Istanbul who promised to help, did not do it. I had to wait in a tent for several hours before they finally cleared my accreditation. I think I caught flu sitting there – it was quite cold and then fairly hot as I think the air con did not work properly.
Also making my accreditation difficult was something I did NOT know at the time, but the EBU had already accredited something like 12 people from SOUTH AFRICA who were coming the second week. There was a AFRICA VISION contest arranged in South Africa and Hi 5 from South Africa was the winners. It seemed the organizers of this event told HI 5 that they would be allowed as African winners to take part in Eurovision in Kyiv (which of course was not the case). But the EBU accredited the 5 singers from Hi 5 and their team as journalists to attend. So from being always the only person from South Africa, I was told that now there were a whole bunch of people so there were hardly any accreditation left. Hi 5 recorded a CD once they were back in South Africa and this CD contains no less than 6 Eurovision covers, including the 2005 winner of Greece.
We went through a lot of security check points and also there were a lot of police – this was so funny to me – these butch police men with fur hats on their heads and the higher their rank, the more fur they had. I loved stroking my hand through those fur and kept telling the police men this is so special (I had never seen in real life these fur hats because it is not really existing in South Africa where it is never that cold). The police men were all surprised that I love this fur hats – I think they did not really like it themselves. I am wondering if they still have this and if I would see it again in Kyiv this year?
The first morning in the hotel for breakfast was a nightmare for me – given the fact that there are many things I do not eat. I had been used to a buffet breakfast at previous Eurovisions where I could take food I eat even if it was the same thing all the time. Here they brought you breakfast in a plate. The plate was filled with different kinds of cheese, butter, eggs, and yogurt – 90% dairy products which I do not eat. I then discussed with the hotel and they asked what do I eat and so for the entire period, every morning I had fried chicken and chips for breakfast.
Sietse Bakker and his team from ESCToday were also staying in the same hotel.
Certain times of the day there were ice cream available for the press and delegations outside the venue. It was really nice.
I had not written about Fred Bronson before in these looking back posts. Fred debuted like me in 1995 with accreditation – he was from the United States of America and so in 1995 two people debuted from non participating countries. Fred made an immediately impact in 1995 since he was a free lance reporter from Billboard magazine and everybody at Eurovision knew this magazine. I was quite envious that I was not able to represent a media in South Africa that was so well known. Fred got all the promo items instantly and delegations even gave him other releases to promote in Billboard. Unlike me, Fred came every year visa free, and then came Ukraine and it was the first time he had to get a visa. I think he never had to get a visa for anything and did not really know the process but he failed to arrive in Kiev and we later discovered he started applying too late and did not get it in time. He ended up in Stockholm and watched it from there on TV. That was the last I had heard or seen of Fred.
Moldova debuted in Kyiv with the group Zdob [si] zdub and they introduced the first granny to the fans – some years later Russia brought a whole group of them.
The promo single of Cyprus singer Constantinos Christoforou “Ela ela (come baby)” was really nicely packed. It was so big and difficult to carry around and I was so happy I could take it instantly to my hotel room.
And FYR Macedonia did the same as Cyprus – packaged their promo single extremely interesting, but big and so I was also happy to rush “Make my day” by Martin off to my hotel instantly.
I also like the promo single of Bosnia & Herzegovina with the song in various languages – Bosnian, English, German, Danish, Turkish and Spanish. The song sounded a lot like Abba. We were told the three girls, Pamela Ramljak, Neda Parmac and Ivana Maric, who made up the group Feminnem were top 3 in the Croatian Idols. They also made everybody aware it was the 50th anniversary of Eurovision.
Lithuania had their best promo pack ever at Eurovision in Kiev. They handed some press a LAURA AND THE LOVERS bag with different things inside, among others the promo single but also a packet of condoms.
Greece has always presented their promo singles in a very special way and for Helena Paparizou with “My number one” the package opened like a BIG ONE.
Switzerland brought Vanilla Ninja with “Cool vibes”. They were a group girl group from Estonia who lost out a year or so before in the Estonian selection with a fantastic song “Club Kung fu”. This song was not as catchy.
Latvia had a duo Walters & Kazha with a song “The war is not over”. Such a pity that this song seems to have again a new meaning now with the current situation in parts of Ukraine. The duo performed the song on stage also with sign language.
Just like in Istanbul the previous year, there was a Nordic party again. This time, however, it was not a pool party but a Viking party and Ireland joined them.
Belarus brought Angelica Agurbash and she sang “Love me tonight”. There was some drama before Eurovision as she actually had another song in the selection but they decided to change the song. I was happy they did, as “Love me tonight” was a much better song. Angelica had a birthday during Eurovision and gave a huge party. There were rumours that the party cost 1 million euro. It was the biggest and most extravagant party I have ever seen. We were showered with gifts – I had lost count of what we all got. The food were fantastic and you would have fed an entire army. Angelica greeted the guests on arrival at the door. Pity this did not result in her qualifying for the final.
Some of the Angelica gifts were obvious music related, among them full CD’s and DVD’s.
The Kiev welcome party was also special – they had different tables and each table belonged to a certain country, so if you were interested in the Estonian delegation for example, you knew instantly where to find them. I left the party in a bus with the Turkish delegation who remembered me from Istanbul the previous year, In the bus was the Turkish group GULSEREN and they sang “Rimi rimi ley” for me as we drove back to the venue.
I also had quite an embarrassing moment. I was with Munro Forbes, who was working for Maltese TV and Chiara and we ran into a guy Munro knew. He introduced me to this guy and I cannot recall his name but I heard he was from Montenegro. It was the first ever time I had met someone from Montenegro and asked “Are you a journalist?” “No” he answered, “I am the singer”. I wanted the ground to swallow me as the people around us could not believe that I did not recognize this guy. But I had not heard or seen any of the 2005 songs prior to arriving in Kyiv and the entry that year for the combined Serbia & Montenegro was by a 6 piece male group called NO NAME and I had briefly seen the group and all of the 6 guys looked fairly similar to me. Luckily the guy did not mind, as he too had never met someone from South Africa. I got a NO NAME T-shirt which is really great and I still do wear it now and then.
I spent a lot of time with Munro during the rehearsal of Chiara who was there with “Angel” and he had to figure out what was the best way to present her seeing that she was alone on stage without any backing singers.
Norway fans were there in large numbers as they had WIG WAM who was very well-known and had many fans. I spent a lot of time with Morten in the city where Wig Wam were appearing. The song was okay, reminded me of the Sweet, but it was not a big favourite.
Romania’s group Luminita Anghel & Sistem gave a show in some square and it was well attended by press and fans. The song “Let me try” is quite good and was successfully covered in South Africa.
2005 had a big challenge for the stage people. Due to the draw, Romania and Norway were drawn one after the other and both had a lot of props in the form of instruments and drums who had to be put on stage and again taken away and you have only so much time allowed by the postcards.
Kyiv also had a really funny incident. Some sponsor of the contest brought their financial results on a CD and a box with them was left in the press conference room and someone discovered it and within a short time, many people had this CD, thinking it was the entry of some artist. By the time they discovered it was a CD with financial results, you saw heaps of them in the dust bins.
This was also the start of OGAE Rest of the world. At the OGAE meeting, Andy wanted to get OGAE Kazakhstan approved but they said no. They said all non participating countries should unite in one club. We then started the discussion on Rest of the world.
For the second year I bought the double Eurovision CD in the host city – the Ukraine pressing was really special with the track listing having the names of the countries in the Ukrainian alphabet.
The day I left the Ukraine volunteers gave me a present – they said I was the only press person to bring them sweets and stuff daily. I was quite touched by this gift from Ukraine and it is prominently displayed in my house.
In 2004 I liked mostly the songs by male singers, this time around, my favourites were mostly by girl groups.
The songs I liked most are
Bosnia & Herzegovina – Call me – Feminnem
Estonia- Lets get loud – Suntribe
For the second year in a row, my most hated song was that of the host country
Ukaine – Razom nas bahato, nas nye podolaty – Greenjolly
To read previous years go to esccovers