- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

KIEV — Ukraine is about to pull off a coup that may be more challenging than its Orange Revolution last winter: hosting the Eurovision Song Contest.

With one day left before the semifinal, Kiev has taken on the air of a busy house staff preparing for a major party. Contestants hold dress rehearsals while construction workers hammer, haul wires and install lighting at the Sports Palace, where the contest will be held.

Kiev’s main boulevard, Khreshchatyk, which only months ago was blocked by thousands who camped out in tents to protest falsified elections, has been torn up and repaved. Oversized blue and green banners touting Eurovision are being draped over buildings. All of this is an effort to show that Ukraine is under new management and open for business.

An oddity to Americans, the Eurovision Song Contest for 50 years has been a huge attraction in Europe, where millions tune in on television to pick the continent’s best song. The international careers of Celine Dion, Abba and other artists have been jump-started by Eurovision victories.

Ukraine first participated in the contest two years ago with a respectable showing. Last year’s entry, Ruslana, surprised nearly everyone by winning Eurovision and bringing the contest to Ukraine this year.

Kiev’s city administration immediately started fretting about the show, but Ukraine’s tense political showdown last year meant that organizational work didn’t begin in earnest until three months ago.

Worried that Ukraine wouldn’t be ready in time, Eurovision’s management was about to change the venue to Switzerland when the new president, Viktor Yushchenko, convinced them his country was up to the challenge.

Since then, crews from 50 companies have worked around the clock to refurbish Kiev’s Soviet-style Sports Palace as the country has counted down the days.

With last winter’s dramatic political events in mind, a tent city also has been erected on a Dnipro River island, where about 5,000 of the expected 40,000 visitors will find a cheap place to stay and a chance to relive the spirit of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

“We are here because we want to feel what demonstrators felt,” said Alexsei Koshovoy, 24, who with two friends was the first to arrive at the camp on Saturday morning.

Ukraine’s Eurovision entry this year has raised questions.

The band Green Jolly, whose song “Razom Nas Bahato” became the anthem of the Orange Revolution, was slipped into the national final in February, bypassing the regular competition. The group then had to change some of its song’s revolutionary lyrics to reflect the supposedly nonpolitical spirit of Eurovision.

The group has remained unfazed by the negative publicity about the song. “People like the melody,” lead singer Roman Kalyn said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide