Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Sunday, 25 May 2008 11:52 UK

Reporter's log: Eurovision 2008

The singing, smiles, sequins and politics are packed away for another year as the Eurovision Song Contest comes to an end.

The BBC's Fiona Pryor joined the winners, and others, at the after-show celebrations.

SUNDAY 26 MAY 1230 LOCAL TIME (1130 BST)

There's a lot of bleary-eyed people in Eurovision T-shirts at the airport this morning, including myself.

I arrived in a blaze of glory amid mass applause - until I realised people were clapping Portugal's act, coming up behind me.

I can still hear people expressing their opinions about who should have done better. Several fans have been debating whether they were actually going to go to next year's contest in Russia.

An Irish guy told me he'd been going since 1993, but he wasn't interested in going any more. Meanwhile, I've been invited to another Eurovision afterparty next weekend in London - not sure if I can take any more, I'm pretty Eurovision-ed out.

It's camp, political fun, taken very. very seriously - but that is what has made my Eurovision experience so fantastic.

SUNDAY 25 MAY 0356 LOCAL TIME (0256 BST)

Have just got back from the Eurovision after-party where I was fortunate enough to turn up just in time to see dearest Dima perform (again).

Fiona (centre) with Andy Abraham
The BBC team tries to cheer up UK singer Andy Abraham
He was leaping all over the stage, undoing his shirt and yelling out to the crowd. I think he's jubilant.

Saw several Russian fans walking around with their faces painted.

As I was standing near the bar mulling over tonight's events with my colleagues, who did we bump into?

Mr Andy Abraham himself!

We told him we thought he had been robbed.

We told him we thought he had been great.

We even had a picture with him before everyone else realised who he was and closed in on him.

SUNDAY 25 MAY 0030 LOCAL TIME (2330 BST)

Dima Bilan (right) celebrates his win
Dima Bilan (right) celebrates his win
I was sitting with a group of Russians and they were going absolutely crazy as the results were being announced.

But the few people I've spoken since to have been really negative, saying it's politics again and the "big four" should pull out.

Everyone's just disappointed that their country didn't win.

I know that Dima Bilan is a big pop star in Russia and a lot of the Serbian girls I've spoken to really love him.

SATURDAY 24 MAY - THE CONTEST

0015: So, the bare chest was enough to charm voters.

Still, at least I don't need to honour my promise to dress as a pirate.

Fiona Pryor with Eurovision ticket
The golden ticket...
2325: Quite unsurprisingly, whenever Serbia gets points the place erupts. There have been boos too.

2320 local time: The results are being announced.

Norway: The last song for tonight and it's not the best I'm afraid. A lot of people are showing signs of impatience, wanting to get on with the task in hand. The voting.

Russia: The wolf whistles are immense. Dima is something of a dish... apparently. Hannah thinks this is going to win. Voters please look past the bare chest and don't go for this. The song is rubbish.

They were chanting his name as he finished. In dress rehearsal, he actually took his shirt off but it stayed on this time.

Serbia: The arena has come alive with screams. Yet it's time for the host country. The man on my right got up briefly but has now sat down again. Everyone else loves it.

I don't much but it would be rude not to join in. There is a girl behind me putting so much effort into singing along.

Spain: You gotta love this for the comic value. Plus I met him earlier and he is a very nice man. The hair isn't real, in case you were wondering.

Greece: If the crowd reaction is anything to go by, I would say Greece have it in the bag. The stadium is united about this one (apart from the Serbs on my right - they are still in their seats).

Azerbaijan: This is a bit much. One cannot argue he has a great voice though. Just checked out the Serb crowd next to me and I have never seen such a miserable lot. Maybe his high-pitched voice has pierced their ears.

France: Hannah and I love this song. We are, what do my parents call it? Yes, bopping. Don't think everyone truly gets it, if you know what I mean. Such a happy song, My voice is hoarse from screaming.

Ukraine: Everyone is standing for this one. Not my fave, but obviously writhing around on lit wardrobes does it for some people.

The crowd are loving this. Ukraine has got the biggest cheer so far.

Georgia: Sticking my neck out now. Georgia to win. I love it. The song. The magic. There is a lot of support for this country. Huge flags in the crowd. Fans have been everywhere promoting this woman.

Denmark: Hannah calls the singer "little Norman Wisdom". She predicts he will do well. I just see Chico. In fact, I've had an idea. I wonder what he's up to this time next year? Only joking. Don't call us, we'll call you Chico.

Swedish fans at Eurovision
Swedish fans were passionate about their singer Charlotte Perrelli
Sweden: Before she even kicked off, fans in yellow wigs went crazy. One of the favourites, and it's not hard to see why. Her amazing voice sends tingles down the spine. The crowd are actually jumping in time to the music.

Latvia: Yes, yes, yes. I love, love, love the pirates. I don't care what anyone says. They got a few boos as they began though. Why? It's such an anthem.

If they win I will dress as a pirate and learn the dance.

Portugal: Huge cheer for this one. It's the key change that does it. The flags went up as soon as she pulled it off. It's a popular one.

Turkey: I just don't get the gnome backdrop. The people in front of me are using this song to take pictures of their kids.

All the Serbs nearby, some in suits, are blatantly here only to hear their song.

Iceland: Even before the song has begun, Iceland fans are chanting. It's a great Euro track. Where do they get their energy from? I'm glad it was this song I got woken up to. OK, I admit it, I'm singing.

Poland: Toilet break song. Instantly forgettable. Sorry, Poland. Her tan looks... orange though.

Croatia: An old man rapping with a woman practically lapdancing around him. Only in Eurovision.

I love the bit where he wanders round the stage. He looks like he has stumbled there by accident! The end bit has got the crowd going as it speeds up. They love it.

Finland: I hate this one but the Finnish love a bit of hard rock so who am I to judge? It's so loud I can feel the vibrations under my bottom.

I know I sound like my mother but please turn it down before my eardrums start bleeding.

Israel: Hannah Morrison from BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat thought this male singer was a woman when she attended a rehearsal the other day without her glasses. No matter, his fans are still clapping in time to the slow and dreary beat.

By the way, the man on my right is still looking bored. I will let you know which song makes him tick.

Bosnia-Hercegovina: It's weird. Crazy. A little out of tune. But the people around me know all the words and when the song finally kicks off it gets the biggest sheer so far.

I hope they don't make a habit of airing their dirty linen in public.

Armenia: I feel I'm in the Armenian gang as I'm surrounded by their flags. The stadium has come alive. If I still had a flag I would give it a wave for this one.

Germany: Germany's answer to Girl's Aloud. Dare I say I like this one? It's not a winner. The man sat next to me looks bored. Cheer up.

Albania: I can't get Celine Dion out of my head for this one - maybe it's the wind machine.

UK: Go Andy! I was waving my flag so hard it fell off. He took note of my earlier advice to give the camera lots of eye contact.

Lots of UK people dancing but I'm afraid to say he failed to make the arena rise to its feet.

Romania: Not the best start as everyone just wants to get up and dance. I feel I need to sway with a lighter in the air. Next!

Contest begins: At the sound of the famous trumpet-playing, the entire arena erupted. Everyone is on their feet.

SATURDAY 24 MAY 2030 LOCAL TIME (1930 BST)

With only half an hour to go 'till kick off, I'm outside the venue.

There are literally hundreds of people here. Looking out from the top of the stairs outside the arena, all I can see is a mass of colour. There's heavy support for Azerbaijan and Sweden.

In the background, someone's beating some drums rather intensely and I can hear loads of whistles. The atmosphere here is amazing.

I'd better go in now and take my seat.

SATURDAY 24 MAY 1900 LOCAL TIME (1800 BST)

Andy Abraham has been in touch.

He says he is "loving the experience" at the moment and is "not nervous yet" - but admits he might get butterflies when he's backstage later.

I have been killing time this afternoon before the grand kick off later. I've been speaking to fans who have been milling around town. A lot of them are dressing up tonight in elaborate costumes - I can't wait to see them.

SATURDAY 24 MAY 1430 LOCAL TIME (1330 BST)

Rodolfo Chikikicuatre and Fiona Pryor
Chikikicuatre thinks he'll make an impact, one way or another

Hanging out in the hotel where all the acts are staying I bumped into Spain's Rodolfo Chikikicuatre.

Through an interpreter he told me is "not nervous" about tonight's performance and "just wants to have fun".

As for his chances of winning? He predicts he'll be in the top five or the bottom five!

SATURDAY 24 MAY 1210 LOCAL TIME (1110 BST)

I was woken this morning - early - to a rather out-of-tune rendition of Iceland's This is My Life.

Thanks to my German neighbours in the hotel room next to mine for that!

Both the Eurocafe and press rooms are unusually quiet at the moment. It seems everyone is saving themselves for the big night tonight.

It's the grand final, and I have managed to bag myself a ticket, it's the moment we have all been waiting for.

One German fan told me earlier he was "very nervous" about the outcome.

The theme of tonight's show is a combination of city and river.

This is because Belgrade sits at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, which is a symbol of the city.

FRIDAY 23 MAY 2330 LOCAL TIME (2230 BST)

Am still buzzing from being at the dress rehearsal for Saturday's big night.

Our man Andy Abraham was second on stage. Quite a few Union Jack flags in the crowd and I even spied a couple of older people dancing away to him.

However, I'm told by a veteran Eurovision fan that he "needs to look at the camera more, to engage with the audience".

Fiona Pryor
In the mood for dancing at the Eurovision dress rehearsal
Take note Andy!

Perhaps, naively I was shocked to hear Albania being booed on stage. I thought all political problems might have been left at the Eurovision front door.

During the show I kept my eye on one guy who was draped in an Israeli flag. It was very easy to gauge which songs he favoured because of the energetic dancing he performed.

Sitting behind me were two young girls from Belgrade who sang Bosnia's song word for word.

And later on I watched two women head banging to Finland's entry - sadly no one else seemed to show the rock band a lot of attention.

The Pirates were obviously a favourite as they got most people on their feet.

But it was Sweden's key change - which has got a lot of fans excited - that half the arena stood for.

Eurovision fans
The arena was packed with fans in specially made t-shirts and flags
Georgia (I'm still loving the magic even if one of the dancers failed to get his jacket off in time) has a lot of support in Belgrade.

Even before the song had finished, fans draped in Georgian flags and specially made t-shirts were making their way down the front to parade around the arena.

Uncertain is how I would describe the crowd's faces as Azerbaijan sang their hearts out - it seems the male singer belting out his number may not be everyone's cup of tea.

As Serbia took to the stage the whole arena got to their feet. It was a wonderful spectacle to behold. The singers began to rapturous applause which continued throughout the song.

Even the security guards, who looked bored earlier on, came forward to drink in the performance.

Finally, I must mention Russia's entry, who some may know was produced by the great Timbaland.

Until tonight I had never actually seen a teenage girl "swoon" before... but I have now.

As Dima Bilan's performance drew to a close I turned to a Serbian girl behind me who gushed: "I love him".

Yes, she loves him and his song even more than the Serbian entry!

FRIDAY 23 MAY 1950 LOCAL TIME (1850 BST)

Have just left the luxurious confines of the Hyatt hotel where press, photographers and fans gathered to greet fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier.

He has just arrived in Belgrade to prepare for his commentary on Saturday night's final for France.

Best known for his unique clothes, tonight he was dressed in a simple black leather jacket and stripey top. Very understated.

He told the packed press conference he was "very happy" to be in Serbia.

After making the crowd laugh by admitting he was a fan of Ireland's Dustin the Turkey, he said: "What I like about Eurovision is the diversity and the representations of different people."

FRIDAY 23 MAY 1500 LOCAL TIME (1400 BST)

I've picked up a newspaper which has a full page spread on Eurovision. I am told the paper is the Serbian equivalent of The Times.

They quote Lys Assia, Eurovision's first winner in 1956.

She says the contest is great because it has become known for "bringing the people of Europe together".

It's certainly working on me.

I have made friends with some locals who speak fluent English. They have introduced me to the very strong local alcoholic drink, Dunja, which they are all knocking back with gusto.

And I'm pleased to say I can now officially say good evening in Serbian - "dobre vece".

FRIDAY 23 MAY 1330 LOCAL TIME (1230 BST)

Somehow, I have ended up sitting in on a Eurovision convention.

About 50 people from various different countries have all gathered at the Eurocafe.

This is a very serious meeting - with an agenda and everything.

First thing's first the hunt for a secretary - not a popular job obviously, as only one person volunteered.

Some of the items they have been discussing are ghost clubs in Latvia and Bosnia-Hercegovina and ticket sharing policies.

I feel very important sitting in on this.

FRIDAY 23 MAY 1125 LOCAL TIME (1025 BST)

I've made it to the Eurocafe, which is where all the Eurovision parties take place.

The venue is on the fifth floor of a huge building in the centre of Belgrade.

Eurocafe sign
The place for fans to socialise

It's billed as Euro Cafe: the Eurovision living room.

Indeed it does look like a rather large living room with big red comfy seats everywhere, two huge screens which I'm told is for Eurovision karaoke, and a veranda complete with a hot tub!

They do food here too, and I see a theme occurring.

There's the Abba salad, the Natasha St Pierre tomato soup and even the Dustin, which is of course turkey with gorgonzola cheese. Love it!

THURSDAY 22 MAY 1940 LOCAL TIME (1840 BST)

It was hard not to get swept up in the excitement of the last rehearsal before the semi-final.

It was full of gimmicks - but not all at the same time.

Sweden's Charlotte Perrelli has the best key change, and is a "Euro-stomper of a song", according to seasoned Eurovision journalist Dave Goodman.

She had an army of supporters in the front row sporting Team Perrelli t-shirts.

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UK fan Richard Crane on the songs to watch in Belgrade

The act with the most impressive trick was Georgia - towards the end of the song a white sheet floats over her and her black-clad backing group.

When they reappear, they are all dressed in white.

For someone who is continuously amazed by a rabbit being pulled out of a top hat, this was pretty amazing.

THURSDAY 22 MAY 1920 LOCAL TIME (1820 BST)

Good news, Isaac and his buddy have had their tickets replaced. They shall go to Eurovision.

As for me, I have managed to bag myself two tickets to the Grand Final on Saturday. I'm told they're very hard to come by so I'm pretty chuffed.

Just had a call from a journalist in New York - how showbiz does that sound?

She wanted to know my thoughts on Eurovision, of course I gave them and more. Who hasn't got thoughts on the contest?

THURSDAY 22 MAY 1700 LOCAL TIME (1600 BST)

I have just met a taxi driver who perhaps spoke better English than me.

In the brief five minute journey together he told me his father was once a mechanical engineer who worked with hydraulics.

He told me his taxi business had been steady in Belgrade as the town was full, and he believes Serbia has a strong enough song to go all they way again this year.

Bit of bad news for Isaac Joy, from Bristol, I bumped into him outside the ticket office where he had been waiting for four hours.

He told me his friend's wallet had been stolen with tonight's semi-final and Saturday's final tickets.

Anyone who has ever been to a Eurovision Song Contest knows tickets to the final are like gold dust.

We're keeping his fingers crossed that between the police and the organisers he will be able to get in.

THURSDAY 22 MAY 1610 LOCAL TIME (1510 BST)

What a day it has been so far!

The highlight has definitely been going to the dress rehearsal for the semi-final. It's hard not to get swept along with all the excitement.

Despite it being a run-through there was a strong army of supporters with flags and lots of clapping.

It was the first performance I have seen so far this year and I loved every minute of it.

I also managed to grab a word with BBC Eurovision presenter Paddy O'Connell.

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Paddy O'Connell says the world's media is warming to the UK entry

There's lots to expect this year, but the costumes lacked colour, look for a black and white theme this year.

There's even a bit of magic on stage, but I won't give it away just yet.

THURSDAY 22 MAY 1100 LOCAL TIME (1000 BST)

I've just been over to see the hotel where all the acts are staying. I think it's fair to say that it's a palace compared to where I am!

The reception was buzzing with people and camera crews as Dutch singer Hind was leaving.

Despite failing to make it through to the final, it was smiles all round as she waited to be taken to the airport.

Meanwhile, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of tickets to see the final dress rehearsal of the second semi-final this afternoon - I cannot wait.

Have just texted Andy Abraham to see how he's feeling about performing - when I met him last week he told me he was relaxed and excited.

WEDNESDAY 21 MAY 1700 LOCAL TIME (1600 BST)

Rehearsals for the next semi-final are well under way - there are screens everywhere so you can see what is going on in the main arena.

I'm yet to find any disappointed Irish fans, but one Danish reporter told me he thought the song was "really awful". He was adamant the turkey gimmick had gone one step too far and the country should have been disqualified.

I'm told Russia's entry, Dima Bilan, who is a big star in Serbia is walking round "like he's Justin Timberlake". I'm on the look out for him to see if that is true.

WEDNESDAY 21 MAY 1420 LOCAL TIME (1320 BST)

Greetings from Serbia.

It's that time of year again when representatives of countries in Europe and beyond don their spangly outfits, get their dancing shoes on and gear up to sing their hearts out.

I've just landed in Belgrade where this year's Eurovision Song Contest is taking place.

Dustin the Turkey with Czech Republic contestant Tereza Kerndlova
Dustin the Turkey, pictured with a friend, will not be in the final

As I checked in at Heathrow, I spotted a couple of hardcore fans proudly wearing Eurovision T-shirts from previous years.

Needless to say, I joined many other Eurovision fans on Tuesday night in tuning in to watch the first semi-final.

For the first time this year, two semi-finals are being staged - and most of the 43 competing countries will have to fight for a place in the final.

I was very disappointed to see Ireland's Dustin the Turkey fail to qualify (not).

Good news for Norway, Greece, Romania, Armenia, Finland, Israel, Poland, Russia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Azerbaijan, who are all through.

The second semi-final is on Thursday, when 19 more hopefuls will compete to make it to that all important final on Saturday.

I'm going to go and soak up the Eurovision atmosphere now. I'll let you know how I get on.


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