2004 saw the introduction of a semi final and so a longer period for Eurovision than just a week was needed. Many did not know it would be longer, like Morten and so he booked a flight just for the last week and was unable to cancel. I was able to cancel my flight (and pay the cancellation fee) and book a new one. I was there for the first week alone and lived in a certain hotel and then moved to the hotel I shared with Morten for the second week. My hotel was very nice but in another area. Istanbul was quite a shock to me, I have never seen so many people around and it was a struggle with my luggage on a train from the airport to the hotel through so many people.
I remember very little about my visa for Turkey so it must have been one of the few that went very smoothly. In 2004 Turkish airlines was not as yet flying to South Africa so I flew with Emirates via Dubai. Although the flight was nice, there was an 11 hour stop over in Dubai, and with no visa I had to sit all 11 hours in the airport. It was dreadful and I still do not know how I managed to get through 11 hours.
The food in Istanbul was a highlight and I had kebab from the morning to the evening, day after day, like chicken for breakfast, lamb for lunch and beef for supper. I however got very confused with the currency, the tons of ZEROS on the notes. After twice making a mistake by giving one zero note extra and the shops not correcting you and just keep the extra money, I started counting the notes with the zeros before handing them to the shops.
I can write pages on this Eurovision, the wonderful Nordic party at one of the big 5 star hotels where I met all 5 the Nordic artists. Each Nordic delegation was able to bring a few non Nordic people to the party and I was one of the few through Norway. After the party I took a ride in one of the delegation buses back to the venue with Max Mannola from Finland (one of the sweetest people I have ever met at Eurovision). From the venue I had a ride in a Istanbul bus to hotel which had at least 300 local people in and my feet did not touch the ground, I was literally hanging in the air between tons of people.
I also have to say the welcome party in Istanbul was just perfect – the setting where it took place – breathtaking! I ran into Linas and Simona who had a copy of their promo single with them to give to me. The song was composed by Michalis Antoniou (who was at the time OGAE president of Cyprus) and Linas.
FYR of Macedonia brought one of their superstars, TOSE PROESKI and his song “Life”. I met him and he was such a nice person. It was awful when he died tragically in a car crash.
Tose has touched the lives of many people and Andreas from Vienna is a huge fan and sent us a picture of his Tose CD collection
Another highlight was meeting DANNE ATTLERUD (Swedish composer but in Istanbul as the composer of the Norwegian entry). We are still friends to this day and I have been involved in helping him to get many of his songs covered in South Africa.
I also met up with SVEINN RUNAR SIGUDSSON(from Iceland) and his father who were there as composers for the Icelandic entry Heaven by Jonsi. And we are still friends today and this year I will be sitting in the venue with Sveinn’s parents and his sister. Sveinn’s wife is Ukrainian and he met her in Kyiv in 2005 and so I will also meet her family in Kyiv. I love “Heaven” but I still think it is an ugly promo package Iceland has brought to Eurovision (their promo packs almost every year makes my top 5).
I felt sick one day and it was the only time ever I used the services of the nurses on duty at Eurovision.
One of the highlights for me was an artist who sat in the press conferences and drew a picture of each artist and by the time the press conference was finished, he was able to hand the artist the drawing. He was so talented. I wonder if anybody took photo’s of those drawings? There was also a Turkish fan who gave each artist a piece of Turkish delight right after each press conference.
Slovenia gave us a fantastic promo CD of all the songs that year from EMA – it is a double CD with 16 tracks on each CD. If I remember correctly the duo of Platin got engaged one day during Eurovision when several press and delegations took a trip on a boat. I did not go as I am not found of boat trips.
Spain brought Ramon del Castillo who also came through Operacion Triumfo – they stressed to us in the press conference that he was this third representative for Spain from the Canary island – with Braulio from 1971 and Jose Velez from 1978.
Austria was there with three guys called TIE-BREAK and their song “Du bist” which many fans did not like.But they were such nice people, their press conference was great and they had a special tie for some of the press. The tie was cut in to and put together with a pin. I got a tie but gave it to a friend who collects ties.
And who can forget the introduction of SAKIS ROUVAS who took part in 2000 at the Olympic games in Athens? This somersault on stage was something I will never forget. He became a model for several companies, featuring in their ads like Pepsi and Vodaphone. This promo single is among my top 3 of all time – it looks like a denim jean with a pocket and the CD inside the pocket. Fantastic,Pity the song “Shake it” was a little too Michael Jackson for me but it suited him well.
Ukraine was there with Ruslana and she of course won and gave Ukraine their first victory. I cannot say that I am mad over “Wild dances”. However Ruslana came to South Africa some months after her win and became only the second winner after Vicky Leandros to come to South Africa.
Ruslana fans also got a note book with her logo on
How can I forget the song from Croatia “You are the only one” by Ivan Mikulic. It became my top song in 2004 even although there were so many I love. And who would have known then that many years later (in 2016) Sergey Lasarov will bring a song with the same title and his song also became my top song for that year?
Also Malta surprised me with their best song ever “On again … off again” – I regard this as the most catchy title ever of a Eurovision song and I remember Ralph Siegel commented this is one of the songs he would have liked to write himself.
The promo single of Latvia is probably my most loved promo single – not the shape or form of it, that is very ordinary – a normal paper single. But people who represented radio stations got a promo single with 9 DIFFERENT LANGUAGE versions – I think this is a record. On it is the song “Dziesma par laimi” in Latvian (of course) and 8 other language versions are Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Finnish and Dutch. The Dutch version has an interesting title called “Aap uit de mouw” and Sietse Bakker did the lyrics together with Rianna Raeven. I got this song covered in Afrikaans – pity I did not know of this project prior to Eurovision otherwise the original Latvian duo Formins & Kleins could have done it as well. This single for me is 100% what Eurovision is about, having a great song in many different languages.
With many more entries now, a double CD was released and it was the first time I bought it. I decided to buy it in the host city every year. Actually a friend of mine, John Jagodowski gave me money for my birthday and said I should use that for the Eurovision CD. It has now become tradition and every year I use the money from him for my birthday for the Eurovision double CD.
Morten fell ill on the day of the final and was unable to go to the venue and so I stayed with him in the hotel room and we watched it on TV.
In the hotel was also several Norwegian fans and they had to leave like 4 am for the airport to catch their flight. My flight was only in the evening and by the time I booked out, I had a nasty surprise. The hotel told me that I stayed an EXTRA day and so I was forced to pay for one more day. This was of course ridicilous but with the staff unable to really communicate in English I just paid the extra day.
I was home only a few days when I had a horror car accident and broke my arm and several ribs. It was a freak accident because I was on my scooter in a side street when two big trucks collided in the main street but the impact of the accident was so heavy that one truck was pushed into the side street and part of it fell on me and my scooter. I also got the flu and you can imagine how awful it was to cough with three broken ribs.
Music wise, my favourites were all songs by male singers
Croatia – You are the only one – Ivan Mikulic
Iceland – Heaven – Jonsi
Norway – High – Knut Anders Sorum
United Kingdom – Hold on to our love – James Fox
Malta – On again …off again – Ludwig & Julie
Actually many songs were likeable and it was one of the best Eurovisions music wise ever for me. My dislikes came in the form of
Turkey – For real – Athena
Estonia – Tii – Neikokoso
Germany – Can’t wait until tonight – Max
And the song that got zero points (the first in the new format), the horror of Switzerland – Celebrate – Piero & the music stars
To think that Piero had assembled with him people that came 2nd to 6th on a talent show in Switzerland was just unbelievable. I think this song generally rate among the lowest by Eurovision fans all over the world.