After a long sleep I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. The Crystal Hall looks deceptively close to the city centre. On the walk out there I kept thinking "just ten more minutes". An hour and ten minutes I arrived. The weather was stunning though so it could have been worse. The promenade area is lovely and has a very cosmopolitan feel to it - lots of nice bars with locals having their coffee.
The promenade is still being finished
The arena and surrounding areas are not quite finished yet. Outside the pavements are still being laid and the landscaping is continuing. Health and safety does not appear to be a word which troubles the Azeris. No hard hats, high-visibility jackets or wet floor signs. There are litterally hundreds of people working in the area aiming to get everything ready for the live shows. There's a slightly manic feel in the air - groups of workers hurriedly planting flowers and not looking up, down, left or right. I hope they're getting a bonus payment!
Working hard to get the arena and surrounding areas ready in time.
Being brand new the press centre is a pleasant place to be. It's already really busy but large and bright enough to be able to cope in the coming weeks. There are free refreshments (water, fizzy drinks, teas etc) and fruit, nuts and baclava! There are lots of Azeri press here keen to hear what we think of Azerbaijan which is interesting in itself. The volunteers are very attentive and regularly approach the desks asking us if they can do anything to help us. I almost asked one if he would get me a cuppa but then thought better of it!!
The rehearsals went well on the whole. It's just a first rehearsal though and so difficult to form any solid opinions. Montenegro has to be seen to be believed - they have a massive donkey on the stage (not a real one unfortunately!) Greece is vocally weak but the choreography is good and of course there's some side-ways Greek dancing thrown in for good measure. Interesting to note that the backing singer appears to be singing most of the song. How very Romania 2009 of them!
What is a tad bizarre to a Brit like me is the hand-holding. Straight men kiss and hold each others' hands here. It's quite sweet to see such affection although I dare say that it would turn quite ugly if such displays were mistakenly read as homosexual so beware!
The opening of the Euroclub took place last night. It's a very impressive venue and certainly better than Moscow! There's a nice sofa/diner area upstairs and a huge dancefloor with massive screens adorning the hall. Whilst last night it was quiet, this place certainly looks like a perfect venue for Eurovision revellers. The volunteers threw themselves into the spirit of things last night and were so enthusiastic. They were such good fun even if they did win the dance-off! We'll be back tonight for a re-match!
The lovely volunteers
Dancing alongside the volunteers was Safura, who represented Azerbaijan in 2010. The rumours of free beer turned out not to be true but the alcohol is reasonably priced and I dare say that there will be 'champagne for everybody' at the opening party!
Safura demanded that I pose for a photo with her. Hate when that happens!
As far as first days go, it was a good one despite the teething problems at the arena (huge rehearsal delays) and the car horns which seem to be continuously blaring!