Baku has the horn. All the time. The car horn that is. The noise is constant and becoming a little irritating. Once one starts, they all start! I don't really know why they do it as it surely doesn't make a difference to the traffic. I guess we'll get used to it and at least I have my ear plugs.
Rehearsals are continuing - today was the second half of the second semi final. Things are starting to take shape here in Baku. The shuttle buses are running and the pavements outside the arena are nearly there. I think it'll look stunning next week. Amazing progress has been made since I arrived last Saturday and I dare say that more progress will be made in the coming days.
Georgia took to the stage today and the general feeling here is that it's going to qualify. Georgia have never failed to make the final and certainly know how to stage their songs for maximum effect. By all accounts it's a stunning country and I would love for Eurovision to be there one year. I asked the delegation about the importance of Eurovision for Georgia and they were very forthright in their response stating that as a small country they have a lot to offer but what they lack is a platform and Eurovision offers them this. "This is our chance to show ourselves to Europe" according to Maya, the head of delegation. They also said that it is Georgian policy to take part in every major event to promote Georgian talent and the state itself. Maya added that every year the Georgian Public Broadcaster ensures that there is a national element in their Eurovision entries, whether it be a costume or a flag and this year is no different.
What people really wanted to know though, was where and when would the Georgian party be? Every year Georgia hosts THE party of the Eurovision season. Indeed in 2010 it rivalled the official welcome reception! The Georgians are fine hosts and always prove themselves to be the most hospitable of all the Eurovision delegations. I don't see the 2012 event, which takes place tomorrow night, being any different.
Azerbaijan's Safura enjoying the Georgian party in 2010
Estonia also rehearsed yesterday. Which of course, for me, was the highlight of the day. I am a wannabe Estonian and I admit it - I did get a PhD out of my love of that country after all! Of course I will always wave the Estonian flag at Eurovision regardless of the song but this year the song is actually my favourite. "Kuula" is stunningly good and Ott Lepland has a brilliant voice. The performance was hampered by a few technical hitches but was still impressive. Coming after the more uptempo performances of Georgia and Turkey, this really stands out and I can see this doing very well indeed. It's been ten years since Estonia hosted Eurovision and the team stated that whilst the contest has changed, the significance of hosting a large international event has not diminished. The Estonians are a very professional and self-assured bunch and you can clearly see the similarities between Estonians and their Nordic neighbours in the way that they carry themselves.
The biggest talent in Estonia: Ott Lepland
The press centre is gradually getting busier and the promotional items have started to materialise. Azerbaijan are getting in on the act too and there is an abundance of books and magazines revealing the delights that this country has to offer. Coupled with the tea served in national costume and the traditional snacks, it is clear that the Azeris are not wasting this opportunity to showcase their country. I am a little annoyed with myself though - I bought one of those Baku magazines in WH Smith and it cost me a fiver! Here in Baku there are hundreds of copies going for free! Typical!
Promoting Azerbaijan at every opportunity
Tomorrow it's the Georgian party - I think there might be one or two sore heads on Friday!