Eurovision Song Contest 2010

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Hasn't it been like an obstacle course getting to Oslo and back? I flew from Manchester to Gatwick with British Airways, missing their strikes by twenty-four short hours both ways and of course I do not need to tell you about the volcanic ash cloud!

Crying for a week when Linda Martin did not win with Terminal 3 (I was three years old) is my first Eurovision memory and I flew from Terminal 3 at Manchester! Checking in at Gatwick was my first sight of the Eurovision logo, with Norwegian sponsoring the 55th consecutive running of the contest (and the first time the contest had an official airline.) The in-flight magazine cover boasted the logo and I took an extra copy for a pen pal!

For years I gazed in awe at the television screen and in more recent years lived every second of the show and the build-up online. The contest has so many memories for me, of loved ones (some of who have passed away) and helped me through good times and bad. Oslo Gardermoen Airport was decorated with Eurovision banners and greetings in many European languages. As I walked closer to baggage reclaim I finally started to believe I was attending the greatest show on Earth!

Before I caught the airport train I bought the newest Norwegian Eurovision book to hit the shelves, Melodi Grand Prix. Half consists of statistics and the other half is text, for which Google Translate is new best friend as it is entirely in Norwegian! Seventeen days is not enough to master the mother tongue though I did learn tak is a roof so if you want to thank a Viking be sure to add the extra k!

I checked into my log cabin at Bogstad Camp & Turistsenter. Norwegians told me I made a good choice but friends from United Kingdom were not as understanding. I woke every morning to birds singing and my unusual dwelling place really added some enchantment to my time in the capital.

I dropped off my bags and headed out for a well-deserved beer. I hoped for a few quiet drinks and an early night as I strolled into London Pub but my plans were soon shattered. "I know you from Facebook!" the barman shouted. I apologised and explained it is difficult for me to remember three and a half thousand friends' names (as I add anyone and everyone I find who is fan of or affiliate to the contest... in fact, add me!) I propped up the bar alongside six Scandanavians for most of the night. My new friends from Norway were excited to know what I thought of their 2010 contributed and I explained I was saddened that My Hard... Heart is Yours was not performed in Norwegian. My Finnish friend was of the opinion that Kuunkuiskaajat were not accurate in their pronounciation! After we analysed songs past and present and filled the juke box with the same, we traded Eurovision trivia. It was a wonderful night.

I promised Stian, the barman, I would come back and see him the following day. He laughed out loud when I told him that I flew from Terminal 3. It is his favourite Irish entry to date and then he turned his till screen to show me that he was in fact working from... Terminal 3! The omens were good.

Saturday morning and the press centre was open for collection of accreditation. I wore mine like an Olympic gold medal (and thanks to John for helping me acquire it.) As I sifted through my official programme and delegate handbook I sighed with relief that NRK used a photograph I had sent them from a photo shoot and not taken my picture during registration, as I was feeling a little bit worse for wear after the night before! I was not allowed to view the stage at this point. I explored the press working area and press conference centre before catching the 32 bus back into city centre, about twenty minutes from Fornebu Arena, renamed as Telenor Arena as part of a NOK 115 million sponsorship deal with the telephone company.

As promised I visited Stian. It was only a quick stop however as I was on my way to meet another Facebook friend, Tim. He is a member of the choir who performed on stage at the second semi final though their voices were also recorded for the first. He showed me some photographs from rehearsals as we sampled local beers. Did you know that holes like those in single Kroner coins were put there to save on metal in times of shortage? The same coins are traditionally left on the bar as a thank you to staff.

I was relieved to be in bed early the night before rehearsals started. I arrived at 0730 and was surprised to see that nobody else was there. I quickly realised I had misread the timetable and rehearsals did in fact start an hour later. I was able to work in the press centre while I waited so it was by no means my worst error of the trip. That would have been when I got on the wrong bus and ended up in a part of town that really was very pleasant but getting back to where I wanted to be took two hours as my mistake occurred on a Bank Holiday Monday. Every Monday I was there seemed to be a Bank Holiday yet United Kingdom has more than Norway. All Norwegian holidays are close together in April and May to celebrate the end of a long Winter, quite appropriate then that the Cyrpiots sent Life Looks Better in Spring.

Finally at 0830 security allowed me inside the arena. I walked across what felt like an acre of emptiness that would be later occupied by chairs for the audience! The stage was still being assembled. Underneath my shoes I heard the crunching of some confetti, probably released when rehearsing the winning seqence. I picked some up and wondered just who would have it fall on them in the early hours of Sunday morning 30th May (as Oslo is one hour ahead of United Kingdom.)

I seated myself comfortably in the front row, continuously observing my surroundings and photographing every sight possible. Things that looked odd to me on stage actually looked impressive on screen and as I looked at a practice light show on a screen beside me I had my first glimpse of the sleek on-screen graphics with Moldovan flag and song information. Sunstroke Project & Olia Tira were in the building!

The other countries performing in the first half of the first semi-final also rehearsed on this the first day. Seeing Russia's snow effect was indeed a treat. After three rehearsals a security guard asked me to join other press members in the arena, standing at a barrier a lot further away than I had seated myself! The view was still good but it was time for me to go to the first press conference.

And so the honour of opening (or at least opening the first semi-final of) the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest went to Moldova. Their press conference showed how honoured they truly are. It was an intimate affair, conducted to the left of the larger press conference area, which would not be used until later in the week.

It was a very tough choice, whether to stay in the arena or to attend press conferences. In the end I decided on neither, sitting on my laptop in the press working area. In one ear I had the press conferences from the centre beside me and in the other ear I had rehearsals playing on screen. I really had the best of both worlds. I also had the pleasure of so many other press members' company. I laughed when a singer missed a note and everyone in the press working area sighed.

Stian was only working until 2000 that night. I left allowing enough time to see him. I brought him some gifts from the press centre as a thank you for his warm welcome to Oslo. He was surrounded by friends again and after an hour of conversing together I realised that one of them was Jostein Pedersen, the co-author of the book I bought at the airport and who commentated for NRK for over a decade!

I had planned to leave and get ready for the opening of EuroClub that night but the conversation was too good and the club would have to receive me in jeans and T-shirt. Just as I was getting ready to leave Pedersen informed me that he was hosting a Eurovision quiz at a bar nearby. I was invited along. It was indeed a quaint location. The bar was not quite open to the public yet. Walls were decorated with Eurovision memorabilia and photographs. Perhaps my favourite of the latter showed Nora Brockstedt standing on a ladder to point at her 1960 score when she debuted for her nation!

While scores were being accumulated we watched the 1976 Norwegian national final. It was interesting to watch this with Norwegians. Back then songs were performed twice, once by a solo artist and again by a band and performances were voted on separately. Jahn Teigen and his skeletion costume. Fantastic. Pedersen hosted the quiz with Kato Hansen, co-author of Melodi Grand Prix and another example of Eurovision royalty. Speaking to him about his research is a memory I will treasure forever.

The second day of rehearsals started with Poland and ended with Iceland. I particularly enjoyed Hera Björk's press conference. Her humour entertained us all. It certainly made up for the fact that I had to decline an invitation to champagne breakfast to celebrate Constitution Day so I could be at the press centre early. I also enjoyed hearing about Juliana Pasha's backing singers' journey from United States to sing for Albania and did you know Tom Dice plays and sings a lot in his bathroom because the Belgian likes the acoustics?

These were the first four pages (before editing) from my article RIDING HIGH IN OSLO from the Summer 2010 edition of VISION, the magazine of OGAE UK. Please get in touch with feedback and to acquire a full copy. Thank you for reading.

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