The Week in Jerusalem

Selma on Monday

This article was originally written for the Leicester Mercury as a post-event report on the week in Jerusalem. I hope you find it interesting.

There's also some snaps from my album.

(Picture: Selma and Icelandic team at the opening party Monday>)

Do you have any weapons?" asked the pretty security guard. Somewhat startled by the question I muttered, "No". This was to be the last time I entered the International Convention Centre, Jerusalem, Israel, home of the 1999 Eurovision Contest - this was the final lap - live transmission was just two hours away, and I still had no ticket.

It had been a crazy week.

Arriving late Sunday I'd been hit by the heat as I left the plane, and then counted myself very lucky to be given a lift on the Dutch delegation bus, their singer Marlayne just on the other side from me, but that seemed weeks ago.

The next day, Monday, saw the start of rehearsals, and also the evening opening party outside the Museum of Israel. I mingled amongst the hundreds seeking out the favoured singers like Iceland's Selma, and Doris singing for Croatia.

On Tuesday, I took a trip around Jerusalem with Turkey's singer Tugba Onal, and Spain's Lydia, and their teams. Waved through the city centre security, accompanied by a pistol-carrying guard, tour guide Dalia encouraged us to make a wish at the Wailing Wall, touch the stone on where Christ's cross stood, and gaze admiringly at the Dome of the Rock mosque. Jerusalem isn't short on religion.

Marlayne meets Marlayne on Monday(<Picture: Marlayne from The Netherlands meets Marlain from Cyprus at the opening party Monday night)

Ham & horse was amongst that offered at the Slovenian party that evening, but soon it was Wednesday, and a trip to Masada & the Dead Sea with the Estonians. Their singer, Evelin Samuel wouldn't take a dip - too many cameras, so they took pictures of us fans floating and covered in mud.

Back at the rehearsals Thursday, I realised just how far behind I was on CD collecting but had a stroke of luck by winning a ticket to the Friday afternoon dress rehearsal. Soon I had tickets for the other two rehearsals, but would've traded them all for one for Saturday night ticket.

Too late I put out the feelers, and was third on the list of a miracle worker to get a ticket - the first was lucky enough to get a ticket with the Swedish team - good choice as it turned out, but there was no more. There was a story that if you were close to the door in the TV viewing room you might get pulled in to fill any free seats - but it wasn't to be.

So there I was in my best suit waving my Union Jack in front of a big TV screen. Bored TV crews filmed the unlucky as we cheered to Precious, Doris & Selma, and winced at the German & Polish songs, then suddenly it was over with the Bosnian jury - Sweden had won. As the audience left, stunned by Dana International's show-stealing stumble with the trophy, I went against the flow to see Sweden's Charlotte.

The writer's trophy for 1999She was asked, "Why do you think it won?" "Because it sounds like ABBA", was the astonishingly frank reply, barely heard above camera clicking.

The post event party was a tad noisy for older ones like me, but you could always tell the Polish singer how great his performance was - but he wasn't interested.

Maybe he knew, like me, he'd failed to reach his goal for the evening, but for me there was always next year in Stockholm.

©G Harrison 1999 All rights reserved

(Picture: The trophy Dana International had trouble presenting. The next day I was given the chance to lift it myself - it is a little heavy, but not THAT heavy. However, the top does rotate, and can change the balance of the whole >)