Istanbul 2004 - My week at Eurovision 2004!

All pictures and text: ©2005 Geoff Harrison & All rights reserved.

The venue for the 2004 contestIt's almost here!
The semi final is on Wednesday May 12th. Only three countries out of the 36 are not showing the semi-final. These are Poland, France, and Russia. Of the 22 songs in the Semi-Final, only 10 will join the 14 finalists to make 24 for the grand final on the Saturday 15th. In the UK, the semi-final is on digital channel BBC-3 who also have extra programmes on the 13th, 14th, and 15th. Terry Wogan won't commentate the semi-final, but he will be in for the final on BBC-1 on May 15th. As ever, I have a song list and a fuller explanation on the 2004 songs page. Rehearsals are going well, and my tip is the Ukraine.

A Question of Turkey
Remaining viewers of this site who have seen it over the last 8 years may know I have been to 11 Eurovision Song Contests - the last one I missed was the 1993. However I had safety fears over the Istanbul contest, and am unhappy over the very long schedule due to the Semi-Finals - rehearsals began on May 5th. Update: I am booked to fly out Monday 10th!. Bit late, but better late than never.

Monday May 10th 2004

Well I got out there on May 10th. I'd missed the excellent party with a boat trip on May 9th, and rehearsals were well underway, but it was still great. Didn't get to update my weblog of the events until Wednesday 12th, but on the Monday I watched rehearsals and press conferences from Xandee (Belgium), Julia (Russia), Blue Cafe (Poland), and others. They say the organisation had been terrible the week before, but everything seemed fine by the time I was there.Deen and backing singers about to perform at the Israel party

I was amazed how many people were pleased to see me, and I met two people who had remembered this site as a pioneer of Eurovision of the web, so I was almost famous, but not as famous as any of the acts in this year's Eurovision!

On the Monday I also had my first experience of the Istanbul taxi - the really dangerous thing in Istanbul. We took a taxi to the Israeli party which was being held in a Television Studio. The taxi driving was crazy, and later the evening I had another terrifying taxi ride at great speed to a hotel to catch some the acts relaxing. I vowed never to take a taxi again, but had to!

Anyway, the Israeli party - totally mad. Whether is was really televised I can't say, but we were in front of the cameras etc. Very loud. They'd invited many acts, and most performed. In fact the oddity was that the Israeli act, David D'Or, didn't seem to want to sing. Eventually he did sing Amazing Grace. Perhaps this petulance explains why his delegation was one of the few to leave after failing to qualify in the semi-final.


On the boat trip escorted by a police launchTuesday, May 11th 2004

Well we'd never booked for any trips because we were not sure of coming, but there was the bus for the boat trip on the Bosphorus, and why not? Seemed to be no trouble, so all aboard for a day trip to see the sights. The glorious weather deserted us, and we had rain, but there was still dancing on the top deck. Not many performers on board - I did find Spain's Ramon half asleep below decks. he explained how he'd been very busy doing promotional stuff. It certainly seemed that TVE was really giving him some coverage.

Back at the Press Centre, we got tickets for the semi-final rehearsal tonight, which was pretty good, but rather poorly attended.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004, 8:43am

Finally got to a PC. Saw the rehearsal of the semi last night. Very good, but the presenters will provoke mirth. Cyprus is very good, and Malta goes down well, but watch out for Ukraine - will score high.

Macedonia and Greece are unintentionally funny. You'll see!

Well, after I'd added that to the weblog, we decided to see the sights in the town, and took a tram down into Istanbul. We went over to the Blue Mosque, and eventually got in. Very open, but the removal of our shoes and socks had one unforeseen consequence - the smell of sweaty feet was amazing!

Ramon outside the Blue MosqueOutside the mosque Spain's Ramon was having a photo opportunity, in which local children were getting autographs from him. I don't know if they knew who he was but it was pretty crazy!.

In the evening there was the first ever Semi-Final contest. You all know by now the results of the Semi-final so I won't say a great deal except that Serbia-Montenegro, Malta, Netherlands, Albania, Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Greece & Cyprus made it to the final. There was a bizarre post show press conference. the best part was where tiny Lisa Andreas (Cyprus) said, "Great placing (21st) but why did I have to be the last drawn!"

Rumours abound about the semi-final scores, with some having Ukraine win, and some Albania. we know that all votes from Monaco were discounted. it seems nobody televoted there, and Croatia's 4 points awarded to itself has been discounted. Some embarrassment at the EBU there.

The semi was followed by a terrific show by Sertab Erener (last year's winner) shown live on Turkish TV.

I'll add that it was great to be in for it (we got tickets the day before) and the result was stunning, as was the press conference afterwards.

Julia at the Russian partyThursday, May 13 2004

Thursday was a rest day and I took a city tour. Another chance for a trip, and this was a morning trip to the mosques (again) and to MiniaTurk where miniature models of the great buildings in Turkey (and a few elsewhere) were on display in blazing sunshine. There was even the mosque on the Temple mount in Jerusalem which I'd seen during the 1999 Eurovision Song contest.

During this trip I arranged a few radio interviews for the afternoon.

Some very beautiful parts in a vast city that never sleeps. Istanbul is hardly noticing Eurovision, despite the posters everywhere, and taxi drivers don't know where it is. Most are criminally insane drivers anyway. In the afternoon I was on BBC Radio Leicester.

Thursday night saw the last of the parties. The first I went to was Russia where a rather petulant Julia was reluctant to pose for photos, but gave us a few songs from her album in the opulent setting of the Russian Embassy.

Then it was over to an overcrowded tiny bar for Xandee from Belgium. She did a few songs, we got her album (mostly covers) and onto the joint Serbia-Montenegro / Ukraine event. Very crowded by the time Ruslana was on stage singing tracks from her album. They soon ran out of drink, and few could see Ruslana and Zeljko exchange a toast of friendship. Considering the nature of the Serbian song, it was odd that the choice of interval music was closer to club music. Some of the failed Semi-Finalists showed up. There was Simona & Linas (Lithuania) in full costume, the Estonian girls, Belarus, Marta Roure (Andorra - painfully thin girl) and Slovenia's Platin fresh from their wedding. (Really! - well so it was said) Israel has already packed and gone home.

Friday, May 14, 2004, 7pm

View of Istanbul from the Galata TowerSorry for the lack of news, but there were minor problems with entry to the P1 press area plus I have been enjoying the inevitable parties.

Friday morning I took a tram into town and walked up to the Galata Tower. A lift there takes you to a terrific view of the city, and I was lucky enough to be up there for a call to prayer. I doubt i will forget the sounds of the call moving across the city from the many mosques. Back through a thunderstorm to the 3pm rehearsal - the first dress rehearsal.

OK I will try to give some impressions. Firstly it was poorly attended. this seems to be the pattern - few Turks are interested and there aren't enough of us to fill it - except on Saturday night.

It opened with Sertab Erener (now a blond - since Wednesday) seemingly dropped in by helicopter. She sang "Everyway that I can" and her latest, before Meltem & Kohban come on, or rather he does. He pretends she is invisible for a while. He looks like Count Dracula much of the time, and her charm is dampened by her slightly odd manner, but we have seen worse.

What of the songs? Well Ramon is a bright opener - some dispenses with his guitar - just as well - he can't play it. 3 casually dressed boys make up the Austrian team Tie-Break, worthy of their tip as last place. Norway gives us a shiny suit, but not much else - it bores me, and France seems determined to keep Terry Wogan in business with its power ballad competing with a woman on stilts flailing around. Hilarious!

Blond Sertab interviewed in the Press CentreSerbia is still cool if you like a slow melodic ballad. Malta goes down a storm still despite microphone problems today. Netherlands looks just like in the Dutch Final. It will score poorly I think. Watch out for Stefan Raab (Germany 2000) 2nd left on Guitar (one of three) in Germany's somewhat lack-lustre ballad. Anjeza (Albania) has changed her hair for a 1967 Sandie Shaw cut and wore a red dress. Very powerful - could surprise. Ukraine is just terrific. Ruslana saved her voice on this outing but still danced furiously. One to be top 3 surely. Croatia's Ivan Mikulic has changed his pinstriped suit for a plain one, but it is still static and rather dull. Relegation to the semi looms for them I fear. Clothes change for song 12 (Bosnia). Pink is the theme, and Deen no longer has a bare chest. Lost something I fear. Belgium's Xandee has a red frilly dress, and her two dancers are also in red. OK, but a bit weak compared to the Belgian final. Scoring will disappoint the fans I fear.

Russia has opted for using gymnasts and Julia is carried by them and stands on them etc. very distracting. one is painted green and looks like the incredible hulk. Song 15 from Macedonia - Toshe still opens like in the semi with the funny hands, but the two male zombies no longer have dog collars. still plenty of Wogan material there. Powerful, but ultimately a failure.

Greece still as in the semi-final with the stripping girls with frilly bikinis. Iceland's Jonsi is bathed in purple and dressed in white. Power ballad, but he just can't make it live for me - no magnetism - but he is streets ahead of Chris Doran from Ireland who doesn't look at the cameras and points mechanically. very amateurish. Will do poorly. Poland's Blue Cafe are on next at song 19. Tatyana has gone for a black see through dress which doesn't work as well as the white trousers I have see her do this in. Good song, but a tad too repetitive. Up next (song 20) is the UK's James Fox. Much better, he looks good and sings well. Well polished. Perhaps not the best ballad, but the UK won't go home with no points. Not a winner I fear.

Irina & Rita - backing singers from Romania, but Irina also wrote the song. Billboard's Fred Bronson caught in the background!On next another British performer, tiny Lisa Andreas from Kent for Cyprus. Black trouser suit looks better than the dress from the semi. Again alone on stage, she opted for the Greek ending version this time. Terrific performance. One to be reckoned with on Saturday. Turkey's Athena were next with their ska/punk fusion. I hate it passionately, but am interested to see how it does. 

Romania - Sanda Lodosi is song 23 and she and writer/ backing singers (from Shake) have had a bad hair day. Sanda chooses to wear a tarty black skimpy dress. OK, but it will come middle.

And last, but not least is Lena Ph for Sweden wearing the pink dress from the Melodifestival semi-final. She's been hard to track down during the week, but she is an experienced performer and it shows. Very polished - just as in the Swedish final. The microphone stand dance is unchanged and looks great. I think the performance far exceeds the song, so I don't see it winning but it will do very well.

After songs and 10 minute reprise we get The Fire of Antolia (again) - or so it seems - this bit skipped this afternoon. Voting will come from all 36 countries and in full from 1 to 12. Will take an age, but hopefully will be exciting as ever.

Another rehearsal very soon. unsure whether to go or join the special Turkish party.

Sorry about no pictures. forgot to bring the cable up her today. maybe tomorrow.

Enough for today.

Friday, May 14, 2004, 10:46pm

Just come out of the 2nd Dress Rehearsal and everything went great. I forgot to mention that there's a break after Bosnia to go to feeds from Madrid, and Istanbul city centre. Presumably the Brighton insert from the BBC will come during the voting. Voting is in alphabetical order, and dummy voting is still going on. We have just had Johnny Logan giving the Ireland votes. Hopefully he will be more professional when he does this tomorrow than he was today.

Sorry Tose, but this part of your act is unintentionally funnyThe hall seems to love best Greece, Ukraine, Bosnia, Serbia, Cyprus, and Turkey. Discounting the hoards of Turkish staff sitting in the many empty seats, we must have the winner in those 5. I'm told Albania comes over weak on the monitors, as does Malta, and Sweden, so what are we left with?

I think the winner will probably be Ukraine, but Cyprus & Greece will be up there, and I still have a sneaking feeling my 5 pounds on Malta isn't wasted. My money is so far on Malta, Serbia-Montenegro, and Cyprus. Last year I had money on Turkey (winner) and Latvia (almost last) so don't trust me!

Another rehearsal Saturday afternoon starts at 1pm UK time. I will be there.

Saturday, May 15, 2004, 3:22pm

Just come out of the final dress rehearsal and it's looking good. The only problem was with Malta who yet again had microphone problems - it seems to be jinxed, but maybe it is an omen!

The invisible routine with Meltem at the start is now gone, but she wears a dress that makes her look fat. I guess this will be gone by tonight. Many people don't like Sertab's new blond look, but I think she really does look like Turkey's Madonna now.

What more to say - well if you haven't done so already, put some money on Greece because it does go down a storm. It seems to be between Greece & Ukraine now, but what do I know?

I think the winner will come from Greece, Ukraine, or Malta. Don't rule out Albania or Cyprus to surprise us. Sweden gives a terrific performance, but I just don't think its going to work.

Voting tonight is in alphabetical order, but I think that means Ukraine is last, not United Kingdom. There are bets on last place around and I think Austria is a good choice there. Nice song, but it will fail, but the same might be said for Iceland - he gives his all but its in vain.

And the UK? I think there will be some points and a respectable result, but I know someone who thinks it will come last. He's wrong.

Just watching Maarja (Estonia 96,97) giving dummy votes - she's actually smiling!

Ruslana in Zeljko's arms at the post-show party!Well its only a few hours away. We will all enjoy it, and doubtless be stunned by the result whatever it is. The contest never fails to entertain at some point during its 3 hours.

Tune in tonight at 8pm UK time.

Sunday, May 16th

Well we had to leave very early - no chance for any sleep!

But before, there was the final, the post event Press Conference, and the party.

Need I tell you - well I'd better - Ruslana won for The Ukraine with Wild Dances!

Terrific result, not least because I won money on Ukraine winning. Without a doubt the best choice for winner, and the post contest Press Conference just showed what a show-woman Ruslana is. On the tables singing with people climbing over chairs to see her. Threatened with closure several times, we didn't learn much, but this was something amazing. Then it was over to the post-show party, which was at a local castle. Great food, and for once, quiet enough to actually think.

Eventually Ruslana appeared along with second-placed Zeljko and won some sort of prize awarded by one the Herrey's and Christer Bjorkman.


If you have any news or updates on this country's National selection I'd like to hear about it. E-Mail me, Geoff Harrison, at my contact page