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Ross Kamarul-Baharin

Fighters over Moscow

9 May was Victory Day (Pobeda) in Russia. I woke up to the fact when my building rumbled on account of jetfighters flying overhead on their way to Red Square.

The city was very festive with concerts on the square Lubyanka Ploshchad and the main street Tverskaya Ulitsa being closed to traffic. There were of course the customary parades with crowds of flag-waving, proud local citizens.

And what did I do? Being the dumb foreigner with a silly phobia of crowds I went instead to the Eurovision Press Centre..yes, where I had to grapple with crowds of flag-waving, proud Eurovision fans..

Moscow Blog – New News!

One day has passed since my arrival in Moscow. I missed the ”Fun Train” from Helsinki because I was the boring guy who took the flight instead

So what has happened? The immigration & customs clearance at Sheremetyevo-2 airport went fast, the airport taxi was efficient (maybe because this is a 3-day weekend in Russia so the highways were quite empty) and the apartment I’m staying in was fine (but soon I discovered that the electricity was out and the agent was not available that night..).

Anyway, yesterday saw great warm sunny weather for the Victory Day parade all the way through to the back-to-back Ukraine and Greece/Cyprus party at the Euroclub in the evening.

So let’s see what the next week will hold, shall we? More news in the next hour!

Belgrade Blog: OGAE International

Yesterday at the Euro Cafe was the annual meeting of all the 39 OGAE clubs: 31 Clubs attended so it was quite a good turn-up. Of course we were represented by our own Maiken (with Jouni and myself there as her sidekicks).

For those who came to Belgrade through our Club, we had to apply for the OGAE Cards (jäsenkortti). With the cards we could get into the Euroclub and get discounts at the Eurocafe. For next year OGAE Card holders can also get a discount for the official ESC merchandise/products that you can see on  We heard yesterday that the main purpose of the OGAE Cards is that, if for example next year the host country gives very few ESC tickets to the fan clubs, then OGAE Card holders will get priority. But Maiken will explain all of this later.

Oh, and the OGAE Cards are valid for two years (2008 & 2009), so for those of you who do not like your card photos, well, tough!

Belgrade Blog: Normal and Abnormal

Tonight is the BIG NIGHT!

Someone from the Big-4 countries had expressed a wish that a ”normal country would win this year”.

I suppose this means that the winners of the last few years were ”abnormal” countries. Let’s see who they are: Turkey (2003), Ukraine (2004), Greece (2005), Finland (2006), Serbia (2007).

And here I was thinking that the Eurovision experience was the ESC fiilis in the host city during Viisuviikko plus enjoying the local culture. How stupid of me.  But no matter what some Big-4 smart person says I would be so happy to return to ”abnormal” Finland on Monday..

Ha-ha..On the TV screens at the Press Centre right now there is a live feed from the Beogradska Arena- they are checking the lip-sync with the sound (so that the picture and sound coordinates). So funny!

Belgrade Blog: Semifinal 2 Qualifiers

In alphabetical order, Albania, Croatia, Denmark, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine qualified to the Final.

Did the rigged voting system separating countries suspected of ”tactical voting” (the Scandinavians, the ex-Yugos, the ex-Soviets) have an effect on which countries qualified? Maybe, but popular opinion at the Press Centre agrees that the best songs went through to the Final; at the same time, some are wondering: which one was the jury choice?

At the Press Conference Vania Fernandez’s (Portugal) natural voice was heard, and it is amazing how such a gentle voice can render such a powerful performance. When Georgia’s Diana Gurtskaya was asked how she felt, she simply said ”I’m very happy, thank you.”. Sweden’s Charlotte Nilsson expressed happiness that all the Scandinavian countries qualified to the Final. When asked if the winner of ESC 2008 was in the conference room, Ukraine’s Ani Lorak said, ”Yes.”.

But who did Ani Lorak mean? Just two more days to go and we’ll find out. Now the ESC party has moved on to the Euroclub and the Euro Cafe, so more news later (maybe..).

Belgrade Blog: After the Semi

It sure is quiet today at the Press Centre, but action should pick up soon for the Semifinal 2 tomorrow. Full dress rehearsals begin today. Maiken has gone to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second city 80km from Belgrade, so she will upload the photos later.

The After Party last night was fun, and the Finnish flag certainly was visible, especially when ”Missä miehet ratsastaa” was played. It was good to see that people at the Euroclub generally liked the song. Poland’s Isis Gee made an appearance, and there might have been the other Semifinalists as well but I wouldn’t know because Maiken had a misery in her feet and I was feeling aged and tired so we left around 02:30.

Like the ESC itself, people at the Press Centre, the Euroclub and the Eurocafe represent many nationalities, as well as many shapes, sizes and attitudes (ranging from hot through just-plain-nice to downright idjits), but without them it just won’t be Viisuvikko.

Okay, I’m blabbing because there’s not much else to report but there is a party at the Euro Cafe tonight so maybe there’ll be some gossip to tel tomorrow. Bye the way, just in case you didn’t know, Euro Cafe is the locale downtown organised by OGAE Serbia.

Belgrade Blog: The Semifinal 1

So, 10 songs were chosen for the Final on May 24, and popular opinion here at the Press Centre agrees that the best 10 songs were chosen. The question of course is: which one was the jury choice? We’ll find out next Sunday.

Beogradska Arena was a great experience: modern, well-equipped and in HOT Belgrade, air-conditioned (yay!). The stage was beautiful, and all 19 songs had their fans (and foes..yes, there were some ill-mannered critturs who booed Estonia and Ireland.

The Blue Cross of Finland was held high by excited Finnish fans when Finland’s name was called out. I was equally excited but felt a bit shy, being the only Polish-flag holder in a sea of jubilant Finns, but then my turn came when my favourite POLAND was also called out.

Maiken and I went to the Press Conference afterwards, and it was a good chance to check how the performers were feeling after qualifying to the Final. Kalomira was as excited as a teenage girl (and sounded like one too..). Dima Bilan was lost for words (because he just blabbed ”you,you,you” and then yelled ”amazing!”).  Isis Gee, bless her, was her usual beautiful and elegant self.

Now to the After Party, and more news & views (and photos from Maiken) tomorrow (afternoon, hopefully).

Belgrade Blog: Euroclub & Other Adventures

We left the Turkey Party when it ended around 20:30, because many folks were going on down to the Beogradska Arena for the First Dress Rehearsal of Semifinal 1. Being in non-stop motion since we arrived at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport (arrival-immigration-apartment-change and makeup-Turkey Party) we were not quite sure how to get the to the Sava Centar where the accreditation desk and Euroclub is. So we though that walking along the river would sooner-or-later (it became much later..) take us to the Sava Centar. The riverside promenade was quite pleasant and the weather was cooling down with a delicious breeze, but our walk became a bad parody of the Macarena when we had to continuously swish off mosquitoes and their never-loving insect friends who found foreign blood to be yummy.

1 hour later, we finally dragged our spotty and tired selves into the Press Centre and collected our accreditation passes, and as usual there were the promotional materials (cds, posters and stuff) but oh MAN!- also invitations to a whole load of parties which, unfortunately, were mostly held last weekend..voi v****  But hold on- Belarus, Malta and Bulgaria were having a joint party at the Euroclub next door starting at 20:30, but we of course arrived at 21:45 so it was over..

So we had a look around the Euroclub: it was on the second floor after entering the building and it looked spacious with a bar in a corner, but at that very moment the noise was too much (this time it really was noise and not Tereza Kerndlova..) so we decided to leave when somebody told us that Portugal was having a party across the river in the Old Town!

Well, by this time I was having misery in my feet and Maiken was getting famished so we took a tram to go back across the river to our apartment in the Old Town..the tram stopped half-way and everyone was told to get off. We had to walk..uphill..more than one kilometre. Then we noticed that the other passengers from out tram had made the smart choice and simply waited for the next tram.. Well, we live and learn I suppose.

Maiken’s high spirits was in reverse propotion to her hunger, and after gallivanting about the Old Town looking for food we finally settled on a 24-hour grill and had the local Serbian burger ”Maksi Pljeskavica”. Two VEE..ERY tired and bedraggled ESC fans finally cleaned up and went to sleep..Tuesday is another day and we are waiting for Semifinal 1: I must remember to bring my Polish flag to support my favourite entry.

Belgrade Blog: Finally, BELGRADE!

Belgrade iS HOT HOT HOT! The temperature is 29 degrees celcius, but with Eurovision picking up speed the place is..well..HOT!

Maiken and I arrived here yesterday afternoon, finally. The first Serbians we meet were Bosko and his wife Spomenka, who are our landlords. They were just great, and from the little that we saw of the city, Belgrade seems to be a happening place, or is it just Eurovision?

We had been invited to the Turkey delegation party so we arrived there at 19:20 (Maiken is very specific about time, apparently..). The party actually started at 18:00 and the hosts had ordered food for 600 people and drinks for 1,200 people, but maybe there were a lot of hungry thirsty fans because by 19:20 it was practically GONE! But the party was held at Club Otard which is a riverboat on the Danube, so at least we had the view to savour..

There was a stage outside the boat with a lot of noise and comings-and-goings, but our starvation was forgotten when we noticed that that loud noise was actually Tereza Kerndlova singing her Czech entry song! But wait, there’s more: following here were Turkey’s Mor ve ötesi and Hungary’s Csézy and, and..oh, Maiken will fill in the details replete with photos.

In between there were screams of joy when long-lost Eurovision fan-friends (well, at least since Helsinki ESC..) found each other at the Turkey Party. So much hugging and smacking cheek-kisses and promises to see each other at the Euroclub, but that’s another story because we first have to get our accreditation passes at the Press Centre.