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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Ukrainian hosts' high hopes for Eurovision
By Helen Fawkes
BBC News, Kiev

Eurovision Song Contest venue, Kiev
The show is the biggest ever international event in Ukraine

Thousands of people are set to flood the Ukrainian capital Kiev for Saturday's final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The event is the biggest international event staged in the country, which also hosts the semi-final on Thursday.

Up to 10,000 people are expected in the capital - many have already arrived.

Ukraine is determined to put on a good show following the turmoil of the "Orange Revolution".

Mass protests on the streets of the capital last year led to the opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko taking office.

I can't wait for the big day
Ukrainian student

"Ukraine has come such a long way since Ruslana won Eurovision last year. Her victory meant a lot for the dignity of Ukrainians," the president said.

Following his inauguration Mr Yushchenko admitted that Ukraine's reputation was at stake if Ukraine failed to successfully host Eurovision. Two cabinet ministers were then put in charge.

Ukraine had been due to spend around 5m euros from the state budget on hosting the contest. But that figure was more than doubled a few months ago.

To encourage people to come, visa restrictions were lifted to people from the European Union and Switzerland from 1 May.

"This contest is a serious step for Ukraine towards the EU," Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko said at the official opening of the competition.

"I would like the slogan of Eurovision in Ukraine to be very simple: Ukraine and Europe together forever."


There had been fears Ukraine would not be ready.

Eurovision Song Contest venue, Kiev
The Eurovision venue has been transformed

Last year's demonstrations by the opposition severely delayed preparations for Eurovision.

But in the last few weeks, the inside of the venue known as the Sports Palace has been dramatically transformed.

A huge glass stage has been installed complete with state-of-the-art technology.

The outside of the venue has been entirely covered in green material to hide what is normally an ugly Soviet building.

"I'm so excited that Eurovision is being held in my home city," says Tanya, a student who is going to watch the final at the Sports Palace.

"There's such a positive and vibrant atmosphere. I can't wait for the big day."

As people continue to pour into Kiev, there is still a problem with the lack of accommodation.

None of the promised new hotels are ready and it is thought this may have put off some Eurovision fans from coming to Ukraine.

'Revolution' campsite

Away from crowds on an island in the middle of a river in the capital, there is plenty of room.

Eurovision Song Contest campsite, Kiev
Kiev has set up a Eurovision campsite
A Eurovision campsite has been set up for people keen to relive the spirit of the revolution. Huge military-style tents like those used during the mass protests have been set up, and are decorated with orange ribbons.

The site is run by the same people who helped to organise the original tent city.

"We know that many foreigners saw the Orange Revolution on the television and now when they come to Eurovision we want to show that part of history," says EuroCamp spokeswoman Nina Sorokopud.

"We want people to feel how it was, that atmosphere of solidarity."

There is enough space for up to 5,000 campers. Conditions are quite basic and so far there are just over 200 people staying there.


Back in the city centre there are green posters everywhere advertising Eurovision.

This year's theme is called "Awakening".

The organisers say this symbolises "the dawn of a new age for both the song contest and Ukraine itself".

Many people here hope that Eurovision will help the country to shine on the international stage and allow Ukraine to become known for something other than protests.


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