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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Hosts 'on schedule' for Eurovision
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News website

Ukraine band Greenjolly with deputy prime minister Mykola Tomenko
Ukraine is gearing up to host the 50th Eurovision Song Contest on 21 May but there are fears the city of Kiev may not be ready on time.

Preparations for the competition were severely delayed because of the crisis caused by the disputed presidential election last winter, which saw thousands of protesters take part in mass demonstrations on the streets of Kiev.

But when President Viktor Yushchenko took office in January, he said that successfully hosting Eurovision was a top priority.

"We understand what we have to do, otherwise the prestige of the country which is starting to be built in Europe might go down," says DJ Pasha, one of the presenters of this year's contest.

"That's why we're working every day, 24 hours a day."

We understand what we have to do - that's why we're working every day, 24 hours a day
DJ Pasha, Eurovision Song Contest presenter
"Before the Olympic games in Athens, people said that nothing was ready. But when I went there for the Olympic Games, everything was ready and everything went well," he adds.

Work has begun to modernise the inside of Kiev's Sport's Palace, but at the moment it's difficult to get anywhere near the venue as all the roads around it are being dug up.

Despite its grand name, the Sports Palace is a typical Soviet-style building, built in the 1960s and in need of a makeover.

Sports Palace, Kiev
Work has begun to transform the Sports Palace in Kiev for the contest
This week the transformation of the main hall is due to start, with workers installing a futuristic glass stage, thousands of extra seats and hundreds of new lights.

For the big event the palace will be swathed in green material, the colour of this year's Eurovision Contest, as a record 39 countries take part.

It is the first time Ukraine has ever staged something on this scale, with thousands of fans expected in Kiev next month, and there is concern there will not be enough places for everyone to stay.

Campsite planned

When Ruslana won the contest last year, the Ukrainian authorities declared that a number of new hotels would be built in the capital.

Now it appears most of them are unlikely to be finished in time, so a campsite will be set up.

It will be organised by one of the groups that was responsible for the tent city that appeared during Ukraine's "Orange Revolution", as last year's demonstrations came to be known.

Kiev will erect a tented camp on the shores of the city's river Dnipro

"This is aimed at young people and especially those who want to experience what it's like to be part of a revolution." says Marko Markovic, spokesman for Eurovision in Ukraine.

At the Eurovision tent city - on a small island on the Dnipro River - accommodation will cost from 10 Euro (7) per night. Giant screens will broadcast the musical extravaganza and there will be a stage for live performances.

Ukrainian band Greenjolly, who came up with the anthem of the 'Orange Revolution', will represent Ukraine at the annual contest.

"Ukraine is like Greenjolly," says bandmember Roman Kalym.

"We haven't really got enough time to prepare but we will be ready, and if we can do it, then Ukraine can do it as well."

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