Roy van der Merwe of Eurovision South Africa and the ESC Covers website attended several Eurovision song contests in person at the host cities. He is writing down his memories of those Eurovisions he attended with accreditation.
I hated the 2001 winner from Estonia but was delighted to go to Tallinn – I have always wanted to go to the three Baltic States but due to politics, South African citizens were not able to travel there until 1995 or so. Now I was able to go to the first one. It was my first Eurovision to a country without an embassy in South Africa and so problems to get the visa. Estonia made a special arrangement for to me to pick up a Baltic visa at the Latvian embassy in De Hague on my stopover there before I flew onto Tallinn.
Estonia also made me feel special and even gave me a free VIP ticket for the final. I do not really like sitting inside the venue, but I did and once the performances were over, I rushed out to follow the voting on the big screen inside the press hall.
In the press hall was free beer as a beer company was one of the sponsors.
All journalists and members of the various delegations get a DELEGATE HANDBOOK each year. I normally do not bring it home as often it is quite heavy and my suitcase already overflow with CD’s. But I did bring the Estonian handbook back, as it was relative compact and mentioned SOUTH AFRICA in it, that there is one journalist from there attending.
We had a wonderful hotel; the people were so special and so hard working. The woman at reception misspelled by surname by writing it as one word instead of three loose words and she said they are not allowed to make such mistakes and I got one night stay in the hotel for FREE. Across the street from our hotel was Stockman, the Finnish chain store and I bought some CD’s there, especially this one with 22 covers in Estonian of Eurovision entries.
Personally, I regard Tallinn as one of the best places to stay. We had many invitations to the various embassies and at one embassy (it was the Latvian embassy), Morten and I were the first guests and so we have a long chat with the ambassador.
In the old city there were also various parties organized by some of the countries and people sort of jump from one party to the next (I think one night there were three parties at the same time and close to one another).
The Finnish embassy also arranged a party at their embassy in Tallinn but as I had already the Finnish CD and there simply was not time to attend everything, I gave it as miss.
I predicted Latvia to win after seeing the stunning and surprising performance. It is not one of my favourite songs, but already by then Eurovision moved away from a SONG CONTEST more to a PERFORMANCE CONTEST due to tele-voting. Even 4 days before the final, the Latvian head of delegation wrote in my passport “See you in Riga next year”.
There is also every year a welcome party by the mayor of the host city and I got an invitation. From about 2014 there were just too many press people and so invites were not given to every accredited journalist.
Cyprus had the group ONE representing them with the song GIMME. Their first rehearsal was so good and the five guys “lost” their shirts. They did not do that in the final.
Macedonia had a special promo single packed very interesting. A South African singer Jenny Kirsten covered the Estonian entry of that year song and packed her single in a similar way (just more African).
Belgium brought SERGIO & THE LADIES and they performed a song called SISTER. It was composed by Marc and Dirk Paelinck who wrote several Eurovision entries. I would deal again with them in 2013 when Belarus had a song by them as their entry.
Spain had high hopes this year – they had a whole selection over several weeks and in the end Rosa with “Europe’s living a celebration” won and came to Tallinn. I was very disappointed with the song; I expected so much better. It was also the biggest group of Spanish fans I had seen at Eurovision. Rosa brought the singers who came 2nd to 6th in the competition she won in Spain as her backing singers and several of them became big stars, especially David Bisbal.
Ralph Siegel was also back, and this time with “I can’t live without music” by Corinna May who won the selection a few years earlier with a song but was then disqualified. This song was catchy but performed totally wrong. Corinna is blind and she was sort of dancing around. I would have had her sitting on a highchair as a queen with the dancers dancing around her.
Slovenia rocked the boat by sending Sestre with their song “Samo Ljubezen” and we attended a party hosted by them.
Switzerland brought Francine Jordi. I had known her already with especially songs from the Grand prix of Volksmuzik. The song was good, but they entered with the French version, and I thought the English and German versions were better choices.
Malta nearly won when Ira Losca, while singing “7th wonder” threw star dust during her performance and surprised people.
Romania handed out a t-shirt.
As the venue was outside the city center, we went there every day in a shuttle bus and all the time we travelled with some delegation and artists and have great personal contact.
Traveling back from Tallinn, I flew from there to Helsinki and guess who sat next to me in the plane – TERRY WOGAN, who had been the commentator for the United Kingdom. We had a very interesting chat, although the fight from Tallinn to Helsinki is very short – I was told these two capitols are the closet to one another in Europe.
Musically I like the following songs
Israel – Light a candle – Sarit Hadad
Estonia – Runaway – Sahlene
Cyprus – Gimme – ONE
France – Il faut du temps – Sandrine Francois
Malta – 7th wonder – Ira Losco
Switzerland – Dans le jardon de mon ame – Francine Jordi
Interesting is that there was no song I hate – a few were just average.
United Kingdom – Come back – Jessica Garlick
Russia – Northern girl – Prime minister
Spain – Europe’d living a celebration – Rosa