Update from Oliver on the vibe in the press centre:
The last time I was at this venue in Tel Aviv was in April for an election-night rally.
Very different feel tonight at the Eurovision press centre: One man is wearing a golden blow-up crown and another is covered in what looks like a pink lace wedding veil. There are multi-coloured deckchairs and parasols for journalists to relax in. It seems like half the reporters have facepaint of different countries’ flags. Pop music is blaring into the room. And I just overheard someone whisper hysterically: “Jean-Paul Gaultier is outside.”
Only 20 minutes to go! Time to charge your glasses, have a bottle on standby, gather some snacks and settle in.
Obviously I’m off the booze until later. Tonight’s liveblog is a marathon, not a race.
Here’s a few kick-off thoughts from Oliver in Tel Aviv:
It was a balmy, blue-skied day here in Tel Aviv, with the beaches packed and world flags hanging throughout the city.
I just sat down with Eurovision expert and journalist William Adams Lee outside the concert hall. Ten years ago he founded Wiwiblogs, a website that ONLY reports on the music competition. Now it’s got a cult following, with 83,000 followers on YouTube and dozens of contributors around the world.
He thinks the Netherlands did extremely well with the jury vote (which was last night) but that doesn’t necessarily win the hearts of the voting public. “It’s by far the most polished and radio-friendly,” he said. “However, it’s very paired back and very sober. And if you’re at a party in Peckham drinking alcohol, you wanna have some fun.”
Australia’s “popera” act is one to watch for big public appeal, he says. “It’s a woman on a massive pogo stick that swings … it’ll appeal to children, it’ll appeal to their parents.”
Finally, his curveball bet would be on Switzerland, which he says sounds like a “global hit”. I asked if it was original enough – the music video feels very Justin Timberlake.
“I think generic is actually a good thing,” he said. “If you’re middle of the road, you appeal to more people. This is not about breaking boundaries, this is getting people to pick up the phone and vote.”
At home, I’m accompanied this evening by my friend Becks (experiencing this year’s entries for the first time), my boyfriend Pip (bemused by the whole business, unlikely to go the distance), and my elderly labrador Henry (profoundly and blessedly deaf). We have enough hummus and falafel to see us through the evening – let me know in the comment box where you are, who you’re with and what’s on the snack/booze table.
It wouldn’t be Eurovision without a drinking game, so charge your glass and take a slug for any occurrence of the following (I’ve gone for a wardrobe special this year):
- Presenters changing outfits
- White suits
- Thigh boots
- Mid-performance clothing removal
- Leather/PVC/gimp masks
Evening all, and welcome to this year’s Eurovision song contest grand final liveblog! After a few years of liveblogging from the host city, I’m in front of the TV at home this year; however the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Oliver Holmes, is in Tel Aviv and will be my eyes and ears in the host city.
This year’s contest may be the most controversial in the event’s history, with campaigners accusing Israel of exploiting the light-hearted fluff of Eurovision to distract attention from its treatment of Palestinians – millions of whom live under military rule in the West Bank or are blockaded in Gaza and prevented from attending. Meanwhile, earlier this month, Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza fought an intense three-day battle that killed 23 Palestinians and four Israelis, leading to fears of another full-blown conflict. Oliver wrote a great Observer dispatch about Eurovision in Israel last weekend; it’s well worth a read while we’re waiting for the show to start.
Tonight’s show will kick off at 8pm – for the first half of the evening, we’ll enjoy all 26 songs that have qualified for the grand final. Then there’ll be a half-time show (featuring pop legend Madonna), followed by an interminable period of complex scoring and the big reveal of this year’s winner and next year’s host nation. With any luck, we’ll all be in bed before 11.30pm, but it’s live TV and anything could happen.
If you’re planning comfort breaks/trips to the fridge ahead of time, you definitely won’t want to miss the bookies’ favourites, as well as the weird and wonderful highlights that only Eurovision can deliver. My don’t-miss tips for this evening are San Marino (performing 7th) Sweden (9th), Netherlands (12th), Norway (15th), Iceland (17th), Italy (22nd), Switzerland (24th) and Australia (25th). The UK’s Michael Rice will sing Bigger Than Us 16th this year, sandwiched firmly between two of the biggest songs in the competition. This does not bode well.
The comment box is open, so feel free to add your wit and wisdom on the presenters, the songs, the costumes and the staging. There’s plenty of good stuff coming up tonight, so settle in for an 8pm kick-off. See you then!