Keeping time in Baku
What time is it? That’s the question being constantly asked by journalists, particularly broadcast journalists here in Baku.
It’s not the local time we’re worried about – my phone, fair play to it switched to Azerbaijan mode as soon as we landed in the airport, festooned with Eurovision posters, on Thursday night. But what time is it at home? Well that’s the tricky one. Azerbaijan is a full four hours ahead of Dublin. This makes feeding TV packages surprisingly pleasant – your one o’clock news piece is due at 5pm, for example, so you’d want to be fairly unfortunate to miss the slot.
But the timing of the contest itself, well that’s another story.
Because of the need to suit television schedules in the countries further west, the Eurovision concert here in Baku begins at midnight and runs, well until it finishes. So the semi finals went on until roughly 2am, with the winners’ press conference taking place afterwards. And the grand finale itself on Saturday night will begin at midnight and run until after 3, with the winners press conference scheduled to go on until 5am.
The first flights back to London begin around 9, with the Irish delegation due to leave at 10am. Same morning. That should make for an interesting flight.
It has all made for a busy and tiring week for the contestants, particularly those, including Jedward, who took part in the first semi on Tuesday night. Because what some armchair Eurovision fans don’t realise is just how many times this show is staged. It’s not just like they all rock up on Saturday and put on a big party. All of those dance moves, key changes and off the cuff quips are rehearsed exhaustively in the days leading up to the televised event. This week for example Jedward would have rehearsed on Monday, then taken part in a full dress rehearsal on Monday night which was as important, vote wise, as the televised event because it was voted on by the national juries. Then another rehearsal Tuesday and then they had to perform in the main semifinal, voted on by people at home. Yesterday I saw the twins, and the others go through a full rehearsal this afternoon and now, at the time of writing they are back performing in the dress rehearsal that will again count for 50% of the votes. It’ll be back to the Crystal Hall today for another run through before the main event tonight.
I’m tired thinking about it, and I’ve only been here a day! But despite the gruelling schedule, the Jeds haven’t let their fans or indeed the media down. They were supposed to be on ‘lock down’ today to protect their voices but managed to have a quick word with our cameras and even tried their hand at a little news presentation themselves. And while some of the other acts took to the stage in jeans and t-shirts for the afternoon run through, that’s just not how the Waterliners roll. I counted at least three costume changes today alone, winged gold jackets for our morning interview, what can only be described as electric switch jackets for the journey to the stadium and then those metallic suits for the performance itself. I actually don’t think Jedward own jeans and t-shirts. Do they?
The big names people are talking about for tonight’s final are Sweden, Russia, Italy and Spain, but no one has written off the twins and many are expecting them to equal or better last year’s 8th place. They love them over here, and they’re playing a blinder.
Lets see what happens. Even at 3am.