Saturday, May 16, 2009


By Sarah Jane Griffiths
Newsbeat entertainment reporter in Moscow

Eurovision fans say it's unusual for the semi-final to pull in such big crowds. But Moscow's Olympiski Stadium was almost jammed full for last night's show, which decided the final 10 acts going through to Saturday night's grand finale.

Moscow's Olympiski Stadium
Preparations are under way at Moscow's Olympiski Stadium

UK entry Jade Ewen was exempt from this round along with France, Germany and Spain, because they all help fund the competition.

Meanwhile our host Russia also gets an automatic place as last year Dima Bilan won it for them. But they have some tough competition after last night.

Norway's Alexander Ryback probably deserves his place in the final after fiddling so hard his violin started coming apart. He's a firm favourite, with a cheeky face and a folky number that actually sounds quite Russian (a sure-fire way of getting the host's vote. Maybe). He's also a former contestant on Norway Idol so pretty big back home and he got one of the biggest cheers of the night when he got sent through.

Greek singer Sakis is a big star in Greece too. Eurovision boffins inform Newsbeat that the former pole-vaulter actually hosted the Eurovision Song Contest when it went to Athens in 2002 and came third himself in 2004. Some serious Eurovision credentials. The travelator he dances onto and jumps off again a few times also seems impressive to a Eurovision first-timer.

UK Eurovision entry is 'upbeat'

Meanwhile Ukraine's entry, Svetlana Loboda, has remortgaged her house to pay for the "Hell Machine" she dances on (it's thought she made that name up herself).

It's basically a few big metal rings, one with a ladder inside which helps her out with her Pussycat Dolls-style routine. As do the skimpily-clad backing dancers dressed in very small silver Gladiator outfits.

She's got a good few fans in the auditorium. "She's so sexy!" two Russian girls tell us on the way out. "I love her shoes." Possibly the best thing about her act though, is how she randomly starts playing the drums near the end. Apparently just because she can.

If you think Denmark's entry sounds like a Boyzone track, it's because Ronan Keating wrote it. Brinck even seems to put on an Irish accent in his honour.

Moldova's could well be the easiest to sing along to though, having a chorus which just goes "He He He" whilst jumping about in an Eastern European style of dance. Betting wise, as well as Norway and Greece, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina are doing well, as is the UK.

Last year though Andy Abrahams came last, swiftly followed by Terry Wogan quitting after nearly 30 year's as host. He wasn't happy about the way many countries just vote for their neighbours. Andrew Lloyd Webber is hoping his involvement might get us a bit nearer the top this year.

Eurovision poster
It's rumoured that Russia has spent more than £30m

"I'm just glad to support and be there on the night that a star is born," he told Newsbeat in one of the poshest hotels in Moscow, the Ritz Carlton.

Outside rows of big cars with blacked out windows waited for those taking afternoon tea inside. Although the branded Eurovision car and shuttle bus parked on the street downgraded the look slightly. We even encountered Ukraine entry Svetlana in the lift, minus her "Hell Machine".

Don't expect to see too much craziness from Jade and Lord Webber on the night.

"We're trying to keep it simple and classy," Jade informs us. "It's a ballad so we can't overshadow it with dancers on roller skates. Less is more."

Which might not sound very Eurovision - but Andrew thinks it's the right way to go.

"A lot of countries will have very heavily choreographed acts, pyrotechnics, fireworks, you name it. I thought it's best to be simple. In some sense, it's my fault if it all goes wrong!"

Except many Eurovision fans say it's where you come in the running order that really counts. Which means things are looking good for the UK as we're singing 23rd out of 25 - one of the best spots you can get. Eurovision superstition has it numbers two and seven are practically cursed. So commiserations to Israel and Iceland.

Not so impressive is the tight security. There are police marching about all over Moscow, with hundreds of them guarding the stadium and nearby tube station during shows and bags searched and scanned there and in some of the city's hotels - plus plenty of metal detectors to walk through.

But don't expect to see too many wobbly sets on Saturday. The stage takes up half the stadium, with heaps of lights, fancy graphics and fireworks. Rumour has it Russia has spent more than £30m putting on a slick production to wow Europe. That's the most lavish and expensive to date so expect a good show.




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