Saturday, 12 May 2012
Baku to 1993 . . .
The contest was being staged in the tiny village of Millstreet, County Cork as Irish broadcaster RTÉ wanted to try something a little different - and boy was this different! A showjumping arena had been transformed into a state-of-the-art music venue and broadcast centre. Yours truly dragged himself to Stansted for the flight to Cork and then the never-ending bus journey to Killarney. The following morning, another forty minute bus journey to the venue in Millstreet where everyone was accredited in the local primary school.
One keenly anticipated moment was the daily totting up of delegate votes as they all tried to predict who was going to win. How uncomfortable it was to see the grim, uimpressed faces of the Danish delegation as their entry slid to the bottom of the scoreboard. Or the weary looking duo from Luxembourg, a country which hasn't participated since. Sonia polled in tenth place with the delegates and grinned inanely at the scoreboard until someone wheeled her away.
Aside from the songs, Eurovision is also about partying and alcohol. Much alcohol. As well as music, countries are also rated on the quality of their party. The UK's, as ever, was a lacklustre affair. Dear old Auntie provided a free bar for around five minutes and wowed the international delegates with a selection of crudities smothered in Primula spread. Belgium cut to the chase and seemingly handed everyone a crate a beer at their party. Happy faces all round, although not on the faces of the Belgians on Saturday night as they headed home with just three points. The star party was given by Iceland who ensured that all attendees downed a vicious shot of something called Black Death before they had even entered the room. Result? Most people staggered into the night and remembered little the next day.
Always fun are the odd (in more ways than one) delegates who turn up. Slovakia sent a team of one, Mrs Jasemova, to prepare her nation for its song contest debut in 1994. Resplendent in a designer jacket, Mrs Jasemova (and indeed the aforementioned jacket) became one of the enduring stars of the Eurovision circuit for a few years. A round of applause too for the husband and wife team commentating for Korea (presumably South . . .) and the British journalist who had travelled down to Millstreet in a camper van because his publication refused to foot the bill for expenses!
Come May 15th and it was contest day itself. The previous night's dress rehearsal had been a disaster with delegation after delegation complaining about the camera direction and hostess Fionnuala Sweeney being less than happy with her, it has to be said, nasty pink party frock. Would it be all right on the night? Due to the lengthy journey into Millstreet and the security lockdown at the venue, we all had to travel in full evening costume first thing in the morning. It was a long day with only the final dress rehearsal to sit through plus a meal in a distant catering tent. By 7pm the place was filled with the local glitterati, the Irish PM and of course, Wogan. Would Sonia make the top ten? Would the delegates favourite Ruth Jacott top the scoreboard and could the downbeat Danes avoid last place?
For me, the cold light of day brought the prospect of a journey back to Derbyshire. It had been an amazing week and one brought to a successful conclusion by a highly professional team from RTÉ. Rather than sit on their laurels, these same people now had to plan something even better for 1994.