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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 May 2006, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Reporter's log: Eurovision 2006
By Caroline Briggs
BBC News entertainment reporter in Athens

Musicians from 24 countries competed in the 51st Eurovision Song Contest in Athens.

The BBC's Caroline Briggs reports from Athens on the atmosphere of one of the world's biggest and most colourful music events.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 0925 LOCAL TIME (0725 BST)

Well, the Eurovision Song Contest is over for another year.

Lordi press conference
Lordi faced the press in costume after their victory
Dissections of last night's performances took place over breakfast at the hotel with some journalists happy at the result and others less so.

But we all agreed that Lordi won hands down on pure showmanship.

Concerns were also raised that those countries that take part in the semi-finals seem to have an advantage.

Often, people need to hear a song a couple of times before deciding how they feel about it, so the exposure is precious.

But it could also be that they were just better songs.

Cries of political voting will linger long after the contestants, journalists and fans have packed their bags and flown home.

It is time for the UK to licks its wounds and go back to the drawing board - again.

Jessica Garlick proved in 2002 that a top three position is not out of reach.

We just have to dig deeper to find the right song for Helsinki next May.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 0315 LOCAL TIME (0115 BST)

Lordi's press conference was a lively affair and, as expected, their on-stage personas stayed intact.

One Swedish journalist asked the question everyone wanted answered - will they ever take take their masks off?

"What masks?" was lead singer Lordi's reply, much to the amusement of the gathered press.

About 400 journalists and photographers had packed the room to hear Lordi speak, and they greeted them as excitedly as the Eurovision audience had.

It was a great end to what has been a long and exhausting night.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 0105 LOCAL TIME (SATURDAY 2305 BST)

So it was Lordi who captured the Eurovision zeitgeist this year.

I really wish I had followed my instinct when I confidently announced that Finland would be a good outside bet this year. Hindsight is always an exact science.

I can still hear the celebratory fireworks booming outside and I'm about to go through to the winner's press conference.

I've heard that Lordi are forever in costume, so it should make for an interesting one.

They have persistently performed well in rehearsals and the neutrals out here were behind them all the way. A refreshing win.

I'm sure there will be cries of political voting all around, and there was the usual backscratching.

And I am surprised that the UK did not do better - but that's Eurovision for you.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 2030 LOCAL TIME (1830 BST)

I've just bumped into Daz Sampson.

Daz Sampson's dancers
Daz Sampson's dancers tried to keep their nerves at bay
The UK's Eurovision hope was on his way back from - in his own words - "the little boy's room" when I passed him on the stairs outside.

"They were about about two miles away," he explained.

"Now I have to get back and get myself into make-up, which is a two-hour job in itself."

He said he was still feeling confident for tonight - a view shared by two of his dancers, Leanne and Gabriella.

I chatted to them in the press room and they told me they were feeling excited and just a bit nervous.

The girls also let slip that Daz has a surprise up his sleeve for the final, but refused to give any details...

SATURDAY 20 MAY 1945 LOCAL TIME (1745 BST)

There has been an update on Sir Terry's bottom.

It has been suggested that his new designer comfy cushions are going to be signed by the man himself after Eurovision and auctioned for Children In Need.

A fine addition to anyone's sofa.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 1930 LOCAL TIME (1730 BST)

The final dress rehearsal took place this afternoon and Eurovision fan Androniaos Babatsikos was one of many people there.

The BBC's Caroline Briggs at Eurovision
The BBC's Caroline Briggs is flying the flag in the press room
He told me many countries, especially Finland, put in strong performances.

"Finland, the fireworks and the lighting was brilliant," he said. "I think they have a chance of winning.

"In the beginning, everyone thought 'what is this?' But I think there has been a movement towards them.

"Spain was also really good, but I think Russia gets my vote."

I have also been chatting to a Greek journalist who asked me what the UK thought of the Eurovision Song Contest.

I told her it was an institution that was widely enjoyed, but often with a tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Eurovision press room
More than 2,000 journalists are covering the contest
A lot of people do take the contest deadly seriously though - that is obvious sitting here in the press room - so national pride is most definitely at stake tonight.

And that pride is driving some of the acts into the press room for a final assault on journalists.

Moldova has given numerous interviews - one of which included an impromptu sing song.

It was heartily received here with a big round of applause.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 1600 LOCAL TIME (1400 BST)

Terry Wogan
Sir Terry Wogan will be delivering his commentary in comfort
It is not often that you embark on a mission to buy Sir Terry Wogan a cushion, but that is what happened to me earlier today.

Over lunch with various BBC journalists and members of the UK delegation, it transpired that the nation's favourite Eurovision wit was having a little problem with his commentary box.

His chair, apparently, is a little uncomfortable - so we all trooped down to a department store and a couple of plump-looking cushions were chosen.

So I'm happy to report that Sir Terry will be able to deliver his usual sardonic wit in comfort.

Lunch also gave us the opportunity to mull over tonight's show, argue about who will win and pass comment on who we think should win - often polar opposites.

The debate was lively as we all had differing opinions so it confirmed my suspicions that the contest is still wide open.

I can also hear journalists in the press room right now singing their favourite Eurovision tunes.

So far, I have heard a few lines from Daz Sampson's Teenage Life, and someone has just walked past me humming the Norwegian entry.

Some of the songs really do get under your skin - whether they are welcome or not.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 2355 LOCAL TIME 2155 BST

The arena for the semi-final was almost full, so it gave me a good idea of what to expect on Saturday night. It was classic Eurovision.

The dramatic? Check. The ethnic? Check. The gimmick? Check. They were all there.

Kate Ryan
Kate Ryan was the surprise exit from the semi-finals
There were some good solid performances with catchy tunes, while others served up the right amount of cheese.

The home crowd adored Anna Vissi who put in a good, if over dramatic, performance, and Sweden's Carola must also be in the running for first place.

Romania's Mihai Traistariu has an amazing voice, can hit a note to shatter glass, and looks remarkably like a ginger Justin Timberlake. His high-octave tune Tornero is certainly one to watch.

Others to look out for in the final are Finland's Lordi whose Hard Rock Hallelujah fired the crowd up and delivered a dazzling pyrotechnics display.

Russia was another popular song, with a singer who would not look out of place in any boy band. A word of warning though - just keep your eyes on that piano!

The song that stuck in my head was Norway, whose Enya-meets-Euro-Lord of the Rings must surely be on track for a few douze points.

Daz Sampson has ditched the denim for something a bit brighter, but failed to engage the crowd. His "schoolgirls" really pull off the cheeky cockney chorus though.

The verdict? The field is wide open, and you just don't know who will have the Eurovision zeitgeist this year.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 2100 LOCAL TIME 1900 BST

Tonight's the night I will get my first glimpse of all the acts live on stage as there is another dress rehearsal kicking off soon.

For many fans, however, this IS the final. With tickets for Saturday's actual final selling for 200 euros, many Eurovision aficionados have coughed up the more reasonable 70 euros for tonight's show.

I followed hundreds of people from Athens' Irini underground station to the Olympic arena where the show is taking place.

Many were carrying their home country's flag and Athens' streetsellers were doing a roaring trade in blue-and-white flags in support of Greece's Anna Vissi, who is one of the favourites to win.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 1623 LOCAL TIME(1423 BST)

The OAKA Stadium where the Eurovision is being held is bristling with activity.

We are half-way through the second dress rehearsal before Saturday's grand final and things in Athens are hotting up - and it's not just the temperature outside.

The biggest gossip of the day is Kate Ryan's shock exit from the semi-finals last night.

The Belgian songstress had been one of the favourites to win the overall contest, but fell at the first hurdle.

Here in the press room we are watching the rehearsal on a giant screen and the whole ceremony looks amazing with a huge stage, spectacular lighting and dancers who appear to be wearing ostrich feathers!

The live songs are drifting through from the adjacent arena and while some have sounded fantastic - like Romania - I have been less enamoured by others.

Some of the costumes are as outlandish as the songs themselves, and many of the artists have been trooping in and out of the press centre.

I have already spotted a couple of Daz Sampson's dancers, in full school uniform, checking their emails, and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for the Finnish entry Lordi.

Overall the atmosphere is very relaxed and things seem to be going smoothly.


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