Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was finally poised for “lights, cameras and action” on Tuesday, with the first of two semifinals in the Eurovision Song Contest due to air live at 9pm on NRK1. It’s the biggest TV spectacle to be produced in Norway since the Winter Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994.
That went well, and NRK officials seemed confident they’d pull Eurovision off as well. “There are a million things we can worry about,” one NRK boss said on national radio Tuesday morning, but he seemed to think most was under control.
“I’ve been working with this since August,” said NRK technical manager Ivar Sundal. He’s responsible for the kilometers of cables, production buses, 23 cameras, massive lighting rigs, 48 commentator boxes, microphone logistics and feeds from the stages and the so-called “green room,” where artists and their supporters from 39 countries will nervously wait to perform and for results.
Eurovision has attracted thousands of artists, their delegations, journalists and fans to Oslo this week, since Norwegian musician Alexander Rybak won the contest last year. Around 70 million viewers are expected to tune in for the first semi-final Tuesday evening alone. The entire event is costing NRK (and Norwegian taxpayers) around NOK 200 million and the city has been swarming with out-of-towners since mid-May.
NRK felt it needed three hosts for the semi-finals on Tuesday and Thursday and the final on Saturday. They were carefully selected to represent the “new” multicultural Norway, and include Haddy Jatou N’jie, Nadia Hasnaoui and Erik Solbakken. While some foreign journalists commented that only Solbakken “looked typically Norwegian,” N’jie and Hasnaoui both responded promptly at a press conference on Monday that both were born at hospitals in Oslo.
“Norway has become a modern society,” said N’jie. “Today there are many ways of looking Norwegian.”
All three have also been strengthening their language skills and appeared ready to lead the program in a mixture of Norwegian, English, French and German. Hasnaoui stressed, however, that all three “are trying to focus most on simply being there, having fun and enjoying this, and not just be stressed over everything we’re nervous about.”
Tuesday’s semi-final involved performers from 17 countries, to be pared down to 10 who will move on to the final on Saturday. Both crisis-hit Iceland and Greece are among those competing Tuesday evening, and both have also emerged as favorites among the press and fans on hand for rehearsals on Monday.
That’s raised questions over whether either country would be able to afford to host next year’s Eurovision, but both wold be obligated to do so.
Other countries performing on Tuesday evening included Russia, Moldova, Estonia, Slovakia, Finland, Latvia, Serbia, Bosnia, Poland, Belgium, Malta, Albania, Portugal, Macedonia and Belarus.