A bit of a delayed update to the blog today. Things are getting more and more hectic here as more people arrive. The atmosphere is building but so too are tensions.
The opening party was a fun night but as a party it wasn't up to much. It seems that the Azeris have been working so hard on building the arena that they forgot to plan the ceremony. There was no sense of occasion and the usual hassle to get served at the bar. Given the money that Azerbaijan have spent this year, it seems like a missed opportunity to promote themselves.
I've been interviewing some local Azeri people who appear to be more excited by the fact that there are so many people here and interested in their country rather than Eurovision itself. In general people have been very friendly and continue to say "Welcome to Baku". If I didn't know better I would think that they had been told to say this at every opportunity!
Apparently Armenian music has been officially banned in the Euroclub after the awkward situation the other night. It's difficult to know the truth of the matter. I think given the context, the absence of Armenian music in Azerbaijan might not be such a bad idea.
Sunday morning was a struggle. One or two sore heads were walking around the press centre. In the evening I went to the Serbian reception which was superb. It was a classy event with a sense of occasion, everything the official opening ceremony was not. The Serbian singer Zeljko performed several of his songs, a true artist. I was talking to a lovely Bosnian lady and she was talking about the war in the Balkans and that music is the one thing which unites people. It might sound corny but surely that was the whole point of Eurovision?
I then hopped over to a gig arranged by Sing For Democracy, calling for recognition of human rights in Azerbaijan. It was a covert gig and I was a little nervous at first but was pleased that I went. Eurovision is a bubble and some people here don't want to talk politics. There is a real issue here though. We are here working in the media in a country that has journalists in prison for criticising the government. In the UK we take it for granted that we can have an opinion and have it heard. We don't live in fear that there might be repurcussions. I salute those peope who organised the event and wish them all the best as they continue to put themselves on the line. It is worth mentioning though, most people here seem perfectly happy. This isn't North Korea.
The days are merging into one right now - I intended to go to Ralph Siegel's dinner party too but in the end there was no time. By all accounts I missed out on a surreal and special evening.
I've got a big list of notes but heading into the first dress rehearsal now - more tomorrow!