May 3rd - THE DAY!
Its 1045, we're exhausted, but I've got just enough time to report that Alessandra's dress for Italy was a much better long black one on last night's rehearsal.
I'm told some Italian journalists told her the other job was awful.
There's a rumour the British delegation will be issued with torches to shine a light for Katrina.
As for as my forecast is concerned, I still want Italy or Slovenia to win, and others don't think Ireland has a strong chance.
In 5 minutes we get to find out the arrangements for us tonight.
Tickets for the post-event party are almost as rare as for tonight, but I have one for the show, and am hopeful of tonight.
Excitement is building!
Latest news after final rehearsal
The fashion police have been out, and Netherlands have changed to something more flattering.
Alessandra for Italy is now in a dark trouser suit, and has changed her hair. She looks even more stunning.
Alma for Bosnia has also kicked out the 'apron' dress for a trouser suit. Terry Wogan thinks her song sounds like Peggy March's early 1960's hit 'I will follow him'.
Corry Brokken (winner with 'Net als toen') is the votes announcer for The Netherlands.
They are doing the mock voting right now.
The camera work has improved after some complaints from the Germans and Bosnia, amongst others, so now we do get some more close-ups. The guitarist and cellist in Slovenia, for instance.
The presentation is about right now.
The 4 minute reprise is very good, although some countries get better and longer clips than others. On the version we saw you could see the costumes had changed. Apparently the delagations have no control over the clips.
Some of us delegates have just voted on the TV version, and the UK won, with Malta second.
There's a real buzz that the UK can win, but who knows?
If Italy wins, there's no press conference tomorrow with the winner - they leave at 7 am Sunday.
The press centre is closed tomorrow, but I hope to have an update after the result, but I may be at the party.
Somewhat delayed (apologies), here is what happened on the night.
Great show, but before it - bedlam!
Getting in was a nightmare, and there was a near panic by RTE at the door that performers weren't getting in. I was behind Terry Wogan in the queue at 7.15. Inside I failed to find fellow web writer Alan Stuart, who I'd arranged to meet at 7, but I was successively delayed. In the end I never caught up with him, but Alan, if you're reading this, I look forward to meeting you sometime before next year's bash!
Once inside at seated at 7.30, there was a real buzz. We stood for the Irish President's arrival, and I must say I didn't think she had such a good seat, and then we flew a selection of flags of different nations, trying to get the attention of the cameras who were looking for just that sort of thing for later.
Kato Hansen of the Norwegian fan club was flying his 'Victory for Norway' flag which was so much seen in 1995 - no chance this year we thought. We then had a warning of the 'false ending' for Slovenia (which wasn't heeded), and before we knew it, they were playing 'our tune' again, the Eurovision theme.
It all went so fast - my band of 5 fans shouted for 'Alma', 'Maarja', and any other with not too many sylabbles like 'Alessandra'!
Nothing seemed to go wrong, although I thought Barbera Berta sounded nearly hoarse, and Debbie Scerri was a little under par. Anyway, it flew by, and we soon got to the voting, which was never exciting, but was unbelievable! - the UK leading!
Suddenly Katrina was there singing, 'Love shine a light', and the Eurovision logo came up, and it was over, and the United Kingdom had won, with the highest score ever!
So much for my forecast!
Here for those who don't know are the first four places:
1st UK - Love Shine a light
2nd Ireland - Mysterious Woman
3rd Turkey - Dinle
4th Italy - Fiumi di Parole
Mick from our group, put a union jack around himself as a scarf, and found himself being patted on the back, and interviewed by German TV. Meanwhile Katrina held a quick press conference on stage, and it was crazy in the foyer. Mrs Einstein was dancing in a circle with Dutch fans, and anybody else, Paul Oscar was telling anybody who'd listen how excited he was about the televoting - how he'd done best in the countries which had it. He thought maybe 100,000 had voted for him in the UK, and then went on about his forthcoming tour. He didn't seem to be on another planet, he seemed to be in orbit around the moon of another planet.
Pretty soon they closed The Point down, and I couldn't file this report, so off to the party.
I'd been lucky enough to get a ticket, but we'd been told any UK person could get in, as we'd won. Some 'jobsworth' security jerk (not the first we'd met, it has to be said) on the door chose to apply his own rules, so it was hit and miss who got in. I saw Tanja Ribic in the queue, rather frightened by its rowdyness (she never went in), and Sebnem Paker went in, and came out in minutes, as did blond. Sebnem had obviously expected something last last year's party, which was very cheerfully memorable. This, on the other hand, was a very loud and rowdy affair, with no Eurovision music at all, apart from a brief appearance by Katrina, who sang the song with no backing. There was no food, and drinks were served by some rather unpleasant hired hands. I hated it.
However I did find some backing singers in there and a very few front performers, like ENI, and Marcos Llunas (very briefly), but it was almost impossible to talk. I aim to have a feature on some of the people in the background later, when I do my proper report.
So, it was back to the hotel to hold the inquest - until 5am!
I knew there was a Press Conference at 11am at the Herbert Park Hotel
for Katrina, and I was the only one of our 5 wanting to go. I
happened to mention it to
(star of the article in this week's TV Times) also in our
hotel who didn't know, and pretty soon we, and her friend Claire,
were off to see it.
Unlike last year's winner's conference, this was great. Katrina was funny. She had a good 6 hours sleep last night. Did she need a rest now after the week?, 'No, we rested for the past ten years!'. What was the other song she thought might win?, 'Well there was that Russian song - that Russian woman - she was a character. We were in the toilets and I noticed she was a long time in the stall, but when she came out she said - Your song - I love! - and shot off'. Do you leave today? 'Apparently our flight is at 2:40 - what d'you mean I wasn't supposed to tell them that?'.
The BBC hasn't officially decided where to stage it in '98, was amazed at the 250,000 votes in 5 minutes, and told us Prime Minister Tony Blair had congratulated Katrina on the win. The second landslide of the week!
We were also told about 'Frost on Sunday', a political TV show, where new Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had been interviewed. Frost had said to him, "Only 24 hours in power and you deliver us The Eurovision Song Contest!".
Apparently there had been a bomb warning on the night, but the Irish police were so confident that it had not been acted on.
A Swedish journalist commented that in Sweden they'd had a reserve jury for the televoting which only agreed with the telephone vote on one score - 12 points for UK!
There was a good photo opportunity set up, and some filming for 'The O-Zone TV programme on BBC-1 on Monday, which will feature Katrina's week.
I met Fred Bronson for Billboard magazine again, and he'd caught up with Alan Stuart. Fred said he'd be writing an article for the magazine on his week.
Then back to the hotel.
I chatted to Anna-Maria Jopek for Poland in the foyer. 'I didn't find singing in front of all those people as bad as I thought, but I hated being in that Green room. I know now I hate being in a competition', she said. She told me Alla Pugacheva, the Russian artist, was very famous in Poland, having won a prize at the Sopot festival some years ago. Anna-Marie's own first album, a jazz album, comes out next month in Poland. I left her cluching her pink furry pig toy she'd only got yesterday.
Some took the chance for a quick trip around the delegate hotels, but up to the airport for me, with a taxi driver who took Jalisse to the Airport. 'They were mad y'know, and the hotel was glad to to see the back of them - they told me Lord love you, when I took them away', he said. He had watched the BBC-1 version of the contest, 'With a few beers?', I asked. 'Oh I was well tanked up for it, y'know - Wogan had me with tears running down my eyes - he was so funny!'
The papers there covered it poorly - only the Sunday World had a good picture, and that was of ENI.
We calcluted in our heads that Portugal and Germany were amongst those out of the '98 contest. Ironic in the case of Germany, as they'd pushed for the new rules after being knocked out in last year's show.
Anyway, that's about it, for now. I'm totally drained, so I will lie low for a few days. I hope you've enjoyed these reports, and forgiven the mistakes, and poor layout - it was tough to do anything given the time and facilities, but I'm very grateful to RTE for the access to the event, and for helping me cover it for you all. Their organisation was excellent, considering the scale of things.