For the first time ever, RadioTimes.com is off to Eurovision. Our (mega-excited) ambassador is already on the plane. While we wait for her first report from the frontline, we asked Eurovision veteran Simon Pearson what to expect…
1. The fun starts as soon as you land. Usually there’s even a stage at the airport where passengers and flight attendants can strut their stuff to the bemusement of customs officers.
2. The whole city will have been given a makeover, including the traffic lights. Last year Vienna installed traffic lights showing gay and lesbian couples dancing. Stockholm has attempted to go one better by hijacking the sound boxes that usually emit a ticking sound to guide visually impaired pedestrians. They now pump out Euphoria by 2012 winner Loreen when they red light shows, and an upbeat arrangement of 2015 champion Mans Zelmerlow’s Heroes encourages pedestrians to dance across when the lights turn green.
3. As you admire the city centre’s rainbow makeover, you’ll be treated to al fresco performances from the likes of Mr Eurovision (aka Johnny Logan who won Eurovision three times – twice as a performer, once for his lyrics. He’s Eurovision’s biggest winner, hence the nickname. You can refresh your memory of his 1987 win Hold Me Now below. You’re welcome.)
4. Don’t have a ticket for the final? Don’t worry, hardly anyone does. You can still bag a ticket for the family final in the afternoon for a fraction of the price. It’s better than the real thing because some acts perform in hair curlers, and you get to see everything that could and does go wrong, which adds that extra frisson when you watch the final in a bar later. This year there’s also a giant party in Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena where you can watch the final on a 300 sqm screen.
5. The arena is a lot smaller than it looks on telly but you’ll be awed by the scene changes. Eurovision makes the Super Bowl look budget. While everyone at home is watching a cheesy video about Latvia or Spain, Eurovision’s backstage army move heaven and earth to get the stage ready for the next act.
6. You’ll miss the bad translations. There are no subtitles when you watch it live.
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7. If you have a ticket to the final and are yearning to be on TV, dress patriotically: Union Jack bowtie, earrings, waistcoat, or just wrap yourself in a massive flag. Try not to be blithely absorbed in your mobile when the roving cameras pick you out for your three seconds of fame as Simon’s friend was. Twice.
8. You can fly your flag freely even if it’s a Welsh or Sami flag. There was a furore last week when organisers tried to ban all flags apart from those of participating members and other UN states, the EU flag and the rainbow flag – and warned that the latter shouldn’t be used as a “political tool”. They soon backtracked after realising that some entrants were from areas with banned flags. Most Brits like to wave teeny flags (ironically, obviously).
9. Flags aren’t the only way Eurovision can get political. Last year, the Russians were booed like pantomime villains despite the fact that their song was virtually an LGBT anthem. The booing is edited out so viewers back home are oblivious.
10. But generally the etiquette is: hug anyone and everyone, whatever their nationality. Simon says the loveliest thing about Eurovision – the thing that keeps him going back – is the camaraderie, the shared love of this camp contest.
11. Last but not least, the ABBA museum is a must. There’s a special exhibition celebrating 60 years of Eurovision but the real reason to go is because you can dance with holograms of Benny, Bjorn, Agentha and Anni.
Do you have a tip for Eurovision virgins? Leave them in the comments box below…
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