EUROVISION 2010 - OSLO, NORWAY
This looking back is especially for Morten Thomassen - thank you for one of the best Eurovisions I had.
Norway won in Moscow and so it was time to return to Oslo for Eurovision 2010. Norway is a very expensive country but since I always share a hotel room with Morten at Eurovision, this time Eurovision was in his home city, no hotel was needed as I would stay at his house. Of course it was not so special for Morten for several reasons - a lot of work as president of the host OGAE club and also Morten wants Eurovision to be somewhere so he can go away and have a real holiday.
I decided to fly with Turkish airways via Istanbul. It seemed the best route, time wise and cost wise.
Norway is also a Schengen country and it was fairly easy to get the visa having had Schengen visas from Greece and Finland in recent years and also having had 5 previous Norwegian visas.
I also got my accreditation fairly quickly, so most of the preparations went well.
This was the first time OGAE R O W members bought ticket packages. I cannot remember how many R O W bought but it was over 10. For the first time there were some Australians coming with tickets through R O W and I remember Rodrigo from Mexico. Also no less than 4 South African came to Oslo and had tickets - Nelius Ferreira was coming for his 4th Eurovision in a row, and Carl-Piet van Eden enjoyed Moscow so much so he decided to come for his second Eurovision. With them they had Lee Scott and Rene van Reenen, two South African singers who Nelius manages. Both have covered 2009 Eurovision songs in Afrikaans. Lee did Norway, Iceland and Malta and Rene did France and Switzerland.
Morten asked me months prior to Eurovision to help him with the fanstand in Oslo. He had secured a prime spot in the press center and we had lots of plans for a fantastic fan stand. I decided to make no less than 5 compilation CD's which we would hand out at the fan stand in competitions daily. They are volume 1 and 2 of EUROVISION - ONS SING JOU LIEDJIES 2010, volume 1 and 2 of NORDIC MAGIC and one compilation of COMPOSERS CHOICE.
As South Africa was hosting the 2010 world cup soccer, several companies like SONY and SPAR gave me t-shirts to wear during the two weeks they had designed for the soccer tournament.
A near tragedy almost ruined Eurovision - some weeks before Eurovision a volcano in Iceland erupted and sent tons of lawa into the air, seriously effecting flights in many parts of Europe. I was happy I had decided to fly via Turkey so out of the way of the lawa. I remember the Irish delegation was unable to fly into Oslo and had to come by boat and they arrived one day late.
The day before the press center opened, Morten and his team worked there to set up the fan stand. Kato Hansen, the president of OGAE Norway before Morten, brought a lot of his personal stuff to decorate the fan stand. Morten was also able to get himself pigeonhole number one that day. Morten was also able to get a TV which would display the results of the OGAE voting and a voting form was designed with the flags of the participating countries - all so professional. The shifts at the fan stand was also well organised to ensure always someone from Norway teaming up with someone from another OGAE club. I spent a lot of time there, more than at any other fan stand before or after. It was so centrally located, we were able to see everything and interact with many.
Vonk records from SOUTH AFRICA also gave me two I-pods to hand as gifts to the two people who correctly guessed the most countries to qualify in each semi final. Nobody predicted all 10 for any semi final and I think in semi final 1 the best was 8 while someone had 9 in semi final 2.
The pigeonhole area was just across from the fan stand with the press working area behind us and next door was the press conference room - everything so central and within easy access of everything. Also some of the sponsors were around the area with things like sweets and candy.
The canteen was on the other side of the pigeonholes but it was quite expensive. I ate just one night there and for 150 krone I could have eaten 6 times back home - the food was nice but I thought not a big enough meal for when you are really hungry.
Transport was not free with accreditation badges - you had to go and collect a transport card which was valid for the entire two weeks and also allowed you transport on the Monday after the final for those still having to depart.
During the two weeks, some Norwegian singers came to the fan stand, among them Maria from 2008 and she promoted her new CD there. We also had a book on Eurovision written by Jostein Pedersen (a previous commentator for Norway) and Kato Martin Hansen (a previous OGAE Norway president) and we sold it there. One person stole one of the copies - it was dreadful as we had no ideas who it was and get either the book back or the money.
The fan stand was really central in my life in 2010 and many incidents happened there.
It was also the location of a near tragedy. One day Morten went to fetch the OGAE tickets from the safe at his work and brought it to the fan stand. He was able to hand out the tickets for the other clubs and kept the tickets for the Norwegian members at the fan stand until we could take it home. That evening we went home and only once we were home, Morten discovered he had left the tickets there at the fan stand underneath the counter - thousands of Norwegian krone worth of tickets - all the ticket packages for the 500 or so Norwegian fans. We could not return to fetch it as the press center had closed. Morten was unable to sleep that night and first thing the next morning we rushed to the press center and luckily found the tickets still there.
One day Per Sundnes came to vote at the fan stand. We had decided to give a gift to the 100th person who voted and this man came to vote - I had no idea who he was but J P of Radio International came running to me at the fan stand to tell me it was Per who was in charge of the Norwegian selection. I gave him his prize and then asked him what was his favourite Eurovision song. He said to me "Fairytale" by Alexander Rybak and then I said, would you like a copy of this song covered in Afrikaans and he said yes. He was so excited about it and then I said, I have even more good news. The singer of this cover LEE SCOTT is in Oslo and would you like to meet him. He was delighted and arranged for me and Lee to meet him and then he took us to a special by invitation only gathering of NRK where they would introduce the 4 special stamps issued for Eurovision - the three previous winners (Bobbysocks, Secret Garden and Alexander Rybak) and Jahn Teigen. At this event Lee was able to sing his cover to this select audience and also met up with Alexander, Maria from 2008 and Didrik Solli Tangen of 2010.
Serbia had Milan Stankovic at Eurovision. If I remember correctly, he had won the Serbian Idols and he was extremely popular with fans (mostly female). This song was called "Ovo je Balkan ". I do not like it, but the promo single caused a storm. They came to hand it out at the fan stand and people went mad getting a copy. Although I do not like this song, what I did like was the fact that it contains another language version - namely the song in Spanish as "Balcaneros ". I also heard that fans were paying a fortune for this promo single. They also gave some radio journalists a full CD of Milan called SOLO.
Greece was there with a song called "Opa" by Giorgos Alkaios & friends - quite a lively song. The delegation had tons of Opa scarfs for us to hand out to fans, and they brought literally TONS of promo CD's for us to hand out as well. One day while I was at the fan stand a school group came to look at the venue and press center and they were like 40 or 50 people age around 17 and I handed each and everyone a copy of Greece and still had plenty to spare.
Talking of handing out things, unfortunately Slovenia brought us a box of like 2000 postcards on the Saturday of the final, impossible to get rid of that with just one day. I had the feeling they forgot about the box of postcards and stumbled across it on the last day.
Many countries brought little things for us at the fan stand, postcards, promo CD's, pens, etc. This was really the ONLY year the fan stand worked well and it was such a good feeling to be part of it. Many delegations brought their artists to the fan stand to look at it, have photo's taken there and to watch the results on the big screen. I was quite hysterical when the Lithuanian delegation came around. They were a group of people called InCulto and had a song called "Eastern European funk". Not many liked the song and it was showing last place on the prediction board, but the members were smiling and joking and singing and had a fun time at the fan stand even though they were last on the prediction board.
We also handed our Lena t-shirts at the fan stand for German press. I can't even remember how the t-shirt looked like, I was not interested and actually cross that Germany did not bring any promo CD's.
On Norway's national day, OGAE Norway board brought flowers to the fan stand and also chocolates and traditional Norwegian cake - Lefse. It really made the fan stand a central point for the delegations and I saw more of them than any previous year or any of the years to follow.
During a photo session with a certain country at the fan stand, one person went crazy and said he asked us at the fan stand to look after his Eurovision bag so he could take a photo of this artist but he never brought the bag to us. Luckily after 10 or so minutes of searching, we found the bag, he had left it somewhere against a wall.
I also went a few times to the EURO CAFE located at the bar royal in the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania which also was decorated with interesting stuff on the walls from previous Eurovisions and Norwegian selections. There was also an Australian gathering one day which I also attended.
OGAE Norway was able to get a certain food shop to give OGAE Card holders a 10% discount on food they bought. I went with Graham and some others one day to buy food there. I think it was the first time showing your OGAE card, you could get discount (it happened again in 2016 in Stockholm).
The Euroclub at Smuget was on the small side and was packed night after night. I attended just one evening, the OGAE party where OGAE Norway was able to get many of the singers to perform there. I remember even Kuunkuiskaajat from Finland came even although they were eliminated the previous night at semi final 1. It was also the first time OGAE Rest of the world was able to have a singer - this honour went to Lee Scott who had covered the Norwegian winner "Fairytale" in Afrikaans. I was asked to introduce him and he caused quite a stir among the crowd with his cover.
This resulted in a journalist from Reuters coming to me and ask if he could interview Lee. I said yes, no problem. The interview was arranged for the Friday before the final at the fan stand. I had Lee there but the journalist was running late and Lee said he was hungry, he went to MacDonalds to meet up with the other South Africans. 20 minutes later the Reuters journalist arrived and no Lee and so he interviewed me instead. The next day I heard from people in countries like Canada, Australia, Netherlands, all seeing the Reuters interview with me. This could have been a big break for Lee.
Ukraine had a song at Eurovision called "Sweet people" sung by Alyosha. The promo single was sort of made to look like a soccer ball - this was done because Ukraine was hoping to qualify for the world cup soccer in South Africa and then did not make it, so their whole campaign revolved around a soccer theme and they chatted regularly with me about the upcoming soccer in South Africa. Of course soccer is not a well known sport among especially white Afrikaans speaking people and they were surprised - I gather people think soccer is the number one sport in every country.
I attended with Morten a party inside a certain hotel - I think it was the Greek party. I was quite tired and went to sit down and the guy next to me started talking to me. He asked: "Do you recognize me?" I said sorry, but I see every year so many people at Eurovision, it is impossible to recognize them all. He then said "This is my problem, many people do not recognize me". It turned out he was the singer for Cyprus - Jon Lilygreen. Of course I felt awful but I must admit, he looked like tons of guys I see all over Europe. His song " Life looks better in Spring" is quite a catchy song.
Someone I did recognize instantly was the singer from Switzerland, Michael von der Heide. I of course know the German language singers much better as Schlager music is my favourite genre and Michael is easy to recognize, although seeing him in real life, he was quite short. He came to the fan stand with a camera crew to thank OGAE Norway - they had voted his song as their favourite in the OGAE poll.
I later saw him again at the welcome party where he as probably the shorter artist and then walked close to the probably the tallest artist, Eva Rivas from Armenia.
The welcome party was strictly by invitation only as the venue, Oslo City hall, was quite small and not all accredited people automatically had a right to attend like had been the case in places such as Istanbul, Kyiv and Belgrade. Morten was even more popular as he got something like 26 invites from NRK to hand out to people. It was a great red carpet affair, a short carpet and the artists walked in quickly. I was inside before the artists arrived and I could see them as they came into the hall. A woman came to speak to me, she works in the office of the Oslo mayor who was hosting the welcome party. She told me she had heard of me, the journalist from South Africa. She and her husband had been to South Africa a month or so ago and they loved every moment of it. While we were talking, something like 8 people stormed at us and took photo's. I was surprised and thought this woman must be a huge celebrity. Meanwhile she was equally surprised and thought I was the big celebrity. It turned out these people were from the Spanish press and thought this woman was Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and that is why they were talking photo's of us. They just ran away when this came to light that she was not the German chancellor but someone from Norway. We stood there laughing about this as afterwards, as we both could see that maybe she does look like Angela if you see her for the first time.
For the second year running, my favourite song came from the Netherlands. This time it was Sieneke and her song "Ik ben verliefd - sha-la-lie". The promo single looks like a Dutch tile (so original). The song is composed by veteran Dutch composer Pierre Kartner who is also very well known in South Africa - at least 20 of his songs have been covered in Afrikaans. He was also Vader Abraham who did "The Smurf song" which was a huge hit in many countries. I was happy this song was in the Dutch language. Several covers of this song was done, both in South Africa and elsewhere. It was pure horror it did not qualify for the final.
The whole promotion was so special, Sieneke arriving at the press center in a special car, Marianne Weber a top Dutch singer in her own right, being her vocal coach and the stage production with the DRAAI ORREL - this to me was Eurovision at its absolute best.
Song wise 2010 was a great year with no less than 3 more songs who also got 10 out of 10 from me. There was the fantastic local entry "My heart is yours" by Didrik Solli-Tangen which became my top Norwegian entry ever and also one of the most special voices to me ever at Eurovision, and I also think he is the best looking male singer in the last 15 years at Eurovision. Another absolute tragedy that it did so badly in the final. I know many said he did not perform it well - I did not experience it as such, this song just was such a classic and also covered in South Africa by a variety of artists in English, Afrikaans and Italian.
Also 10 out of 10 for me is Denmark's "In a moment like this" sung by Chanee and N'evergreen. This song was a reject from Sweden's selection and did so well for Denmark. I regard this as one of the best songs composed by Thomas Gson. I think had N'evergreen come across as more friendly, this could have won the Eurovision. The song was covered in South Africa by various artists and in English by Jay and Lianie May and this went on to become the biggest euro cover ever in South Africa - even several Euro fans recon this cover is better than the original. The song was also covered in Swedish.
The last song to get 10 out of 10 is Belarus and their "Butterflies" by 3 + 2. I just love this song and the way it was presented on stage with the dresses of the 3 females looking like butterflies. Many fans did not expect this to qualify but I have been over the moon. They were with me inside the green room but sat on the other side of the room away from me. Belarus as usual had a wide variety of souvenirs for the press, including the most beautiful BAG I had ever gotten at Eurovision.
I spent quite a lot of time with the Bulgarian delegation and Miroslav because we had decided one of his songs in the selection, composed by Danne Attlerud from Sweden, would be the OGAE Rest of the world entry in that years Second chance contest.
I was probably one of the few that liked the Russian entry "Lost and forgotten" by Peter Nalitch & friends.
Morten could get 4 people to be in the green room during semi final 1. He asked me and two Greek OGAE members, Costas Tzisis (who was at that time the president of OGAE Greece) and Tasos Denesidis (who always brings Morten and me the Greek promo single). We got special accreditation badges for this day and was escorted into the venue and to the green room. That year the green room was out of sight of the general public. The 4 of us sat at our own table but the delegations of 4 countries sat around us - Malta, Latvia, Slovakia and Finland. In the beginning it was quite exciting to be in the green room but once none of the artists of the four countries sitting around us qualified, it became one of the most horrible experiences I have ever had at Eurovision. It was so sad, especially seeing the Malta singer crying and the head of delegation using the HUGE Malta flag they had to dry her tears. Of course it was also excited to see the joy of those delegations who did qualify.
During one of the semi finals, NRK paid tribute to fans from across the world and they focused on Rest of the world fans who came a long way. During the show they spoke with Nelius from South Africa as well as 2 of the Australians/New Zealanders who got tickets via OGAE Rest of the world, but were allocated special seats so the cameras could get easily to them. You can see this on the DVD recordings of the show.
There was high drama with Sweden not qualifying for the final with their song " This is my life" sung by Anna Bergendahl. We were in a bus travelling to the after party and this was the only topic of discussion. The transport was fantastic, tons of buses were ready once the shows finished to take people to the after parties. One of the best logistical operations I have ever experienced and 12 points to the Norwegian organisation for that.
Before semi final 1, I helped Morten to hand out tickets to the Norwegian members. An airline also made t-shirts for the members with their logo etc. We were gathering close to the venue and the members arrived to get their tickets and t-shirts.
I was in the green room for semi final 1 live but semi final 2 live and the final live show, I spent at the fan stand, making sure the last people voted. Just before the final, Sietse came to me and said he has a spare ticket for the final and want to give it to me. I said rather give it to someone who really wanted to see the show, it is good enough for me to sit at the fan stand and watch it on the big screen.
The final brought us JIMMY JUMP, who jumped on stage during the performance of the Spanish entry "Algo pequenito (Something tiny)". I did not think anything was wrong and thought this was all part of the performance. Spain was allowed to sing their song again. A few months later Jimmy jumped onto the field at a soccer match during the World cup - so I was one of a few people who saw him "jumped" twice.
Even in a first world country like Norway, we had a one hour power cut in the press center. It was in the afternoon on a fairly quiet day, so it did not matter too much.
I think Oslo was the only year I attended all 3 the after parties because obviously unlike other Eurovisions, I was staying with Morten in his house and went home with him after events. The after party of the final was quite crowded and there was a lot of food but as expected not much I eat.
Another super party was that of Georgia which took place in the opera house and must have cost a fortune - this was so special in so many ways. I have several friends in Oslo and I was meeting up with Oeystein who had visited me in South Africa three or so years previously. I took him with me to the Georgia party. They handed big bags to the people attending - packed with goodies. I had lost touch with everything inside, but there was a memory stick, a promo CD, a note pad, something you use to read at night with, a light that moves over the book so it lights up the lines - after all their entry was called "Shine". The most emotional item for me was a light blanket you put over your legs when watching TV. I took it for my mother and she loved it and used it every night while watching TV. When she died, I had the blanket put in her coffin. She always said this was the most special item I had ever brought her from Eurovision and for that, Georgia will always have a special place in my heart. Of course the food and drinks at the party was out of this world - for 99% of the people. Unfortunately I do not eat sea food,neither drink alcohol, so I was unable to eat or drink anything.
Ian Fowell and I also met up with Trond Inge Skara who is Norwegian but he lives close to the airport. He had tickets for the show and we met up with him before the show. Trond and I exchanged CD's - he likes several South African artists and he gave me the selection CD's from Norway and Sweden that year. We also ran into the Slovak delegation - they gave me a t-shirt of "Horehronie". This was quite a fan favourite but I found the staging too dark to really see it as a potential winner.
The OGAE president's meeting was held in a room at a certain hotel. I think Morten got the room for free but had to pay a fortune for the fruit platter that was available. With me I had two females from Iceland who were interested in starting OGAE Iceland and I brought them with me. I think the meeting went relatively peaceful compared to other president's meetings.
Due to the fact that Morten had to return to work early on the Monday and my flight was only the Monday afternoon, I decided to move into a hotel for the Sunday evening so that I can sleep late and have direct access from the hotel to the airport. Morten helped me taking my luggage over to the hotel. Once I was booked in, I had to meet up with a friend of mine from Oslo I know even before I got to know Morten, Tor-Olav Fidjeland. I had visited him and his Polish wife Maria in 1991. We were to meet me in the lobby of the hotel where the after party was held. Maria could not make it and Tor-Olav came alone. I was there first as it was close to the hotel I had booked for the night and while waiting I ate something and spilled chocolate on my shirt. I went to the bathroom to clean it and took off my money belt. Well, I forgot to put the money belt back and once I met up with Tor-Olav, we went to a restaurant to drink something. When the bill came and we had to pay, I discovered to my shock and horror, I did not have my money belt on - I was in a state as inside the money belt was my money and credit cards (luckily not my passport as that was in the hotel) but also the keys to my hotel. I ran the distance from the restaurant we were to the hotel and into the bathroom and of course the money belt was gone. I went to lost and found and they started phoning - one hour later they came back with the news that someone found the money belt and they will have it soon. I had to identify what was inside and it was mine and everything was there - to the last krone. I was so thankful and said had this happened in South Africa, I may have gotten the money belt back but all the cash at least would have been gone. Then the head of security said to me, THIS IS NORWAY. I was so relieved, I ran back to the hotel and fell on the bed to recover from all of this.
The Monday morning I got up late, ate breakfast and then finished packing and got ready to depart for the airport. The rest of the fight back home went smoothly.
As I have already said, 2010 brought no less than 4 10 out of 10 songs
Netherlands - Ik ven verliefd - sha la lie - Sieneke
Norway - My heart is yours - Didrik Solli-Tangen
Denmark - In a moment like this - Chanee & N'evergreen
Belarus - Butterflies - 3 + 2
The biggest horrors all came from the Baltic countries and if I remember correctly, none qualified.
Lithuania - Eastern European funk
Latvia - What for - Aisha
Estonia - Siren - Malcolm Lincoln