Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy 9-14/5/2022

The Eurovision Song Contest is a weird mix of catchy pop tunes, funny even silly elements, unique performances and solidarity between countries. Not everything is classy or does have to be, it’s the special atmosphere and a huge amount of people uniting around the music that makes the contest interesting. In Torino we saw everything from strong simple ballads to glittery dance parties and futuristic light shows. We saw the hosts performing both as a duet and solo and we saw several guest performances. Eurovision fans who came from Europe, Australia and even the US had fun and supported their favourites in a heartwarming way.

Personally I love the variety. When I chose my top 10 songs before my trip to Torino I tried to choose songs from many different categories. Ukraine’s Stefania by Kalush Orchestra was catchy and got solidarity points from me. I wanted to see Ukraine winning, I wanted people to support the cause as much as the song and it was hard to even imagine that not happening. Sweden and the UK represented the regular pop group, these songs are something you can hear played on the radio. Space Man by Sam Ryder was just outside my top 10 list but hearing the song at the semifinals totally changed that. It was a great performance and Space Man looked also visually beautiful on stage.

This year strong ballads were well represented but my favourite Australia felt more unique than the others. Along with Australia I had also Poland and Azerbaijan on my list. Serbia’s entry was catchy and totally different than any other song and for that reason fit well on my top 10 list. Seeing the song performed live only strengthened its position, the audience loved it and my hands started to clap automatically when the chorus started.

 I noticed that songs feel different heard at home and on stage in front of you. At home some of my biggest favorites were Estonia and Armenia. Seeing performed I suddenly enjoyed energetic entries like Spain or Romania equally much or even more because cheered by fans these songs got extra energy. The audience was an important part of the contest. People came in groups, many had flags, costumes or face paintings. Especially during the live shows the atmosphere was electric, people were supportive to everyone and the loudest to their own favourites. Some had several flags for several favorites and I felt that way as well. I couldn’t support only one entry, I had to stand up and give big applauses to several performances, it felt only fair.

I arrived Torino on Monday and had tickets for nine different events starting on Monday night. Each of the three main event – semifinal 1, semifinal 2 and the grand final had three separate events: the jury show on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, the family show on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons and the live show on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. I had tickets for each event and that meant I headed to the venue each day and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday spent there the whole day just trying to find some quick snack between the family rehearsal and the live show. 

 To my surprise the arena, PalaOlimpico, also called Pala Alpitour, felt actually smaller than I had thought in advance or how it looks in photos. Not totally sure about the capacity during the Eurovision but it couldn’t be 15000 like I had read in advance but closer to 6000 or 7000. The atmosphere made it feel almost cozy even though it was obviously still a big venue. I managed to buy seats with good views for almost every event but was never close enough to see Mika from close distance to properly see his facial expressions or to take pictures of him. I had my camera with me on Monday and Saturday and took many photos to remember how everything looked inside of the venue with the “sun” on stage and with different lights. I took photos of the hosts as well to catch at least one good picture of them together but that wasn’t easy at all from distance and basically one of them talking every time they were on stage. 

When I heard about Mika becoming one of the three hosts together with Laura Pausini and Alessandro Cattelan (who I had seen many times because he’s a famous host in Italy) I knew immediately I wanted to be there and witness everything happening. Hosting and – as we later heard – performing in front of 180-200 million people would be one of the biggest moments of Mika’s career and I knew without a doubt he would shine in his role. After watching his live television career at The Voice France, the XF Italy and Casa Mika from very close distance I knew how professional and experienced he is, I knew he would be ready for this, I knew he would win everyone over with his charm. I guess in the end it was still a surprise how much he shined. He was the true star of the Eurovision. In the middle of that giant production he stood out like no one else without trying at all. He would never try that, he’s way too thoughtful, way too modest and gentleman for that. Yet he shined like no one else. During the week I kept thinking over and over again how much I admire his attitude. Every single thing Mika does is done professionally and always with a positive attitude and good energy.

 A few words about the practical side of the Eurovision. The arena had entrances on two sides. I noticed after a couple of days that the other side had a huge park next to the entrance and I started to use that one. The queues there were a bit shorter and the park offered a nice place to wait. At the gates we could choose several lines. The first person checked the ID and it had to match with the name on the ticket, the second one scanned the ticket and then it was time to open our bags and go through the security scanning. After that we could either wait in the big outside area taking photos in front of the Eurovision logo or go in and buy merchandise or drinks and snack or just find our seats and wait there for the show. The bar in the middle of the lobby was big and had a good selection. The prices were expensive but at big events they always are.

On Monday everything went well but on Tuesday getting in was harder and after several incidents I was literally in tears. The security had no clear policy or instructions. It took five people to “decide” if my official mobile ticket was valid and when I offered to show my purchase confirmation I was told to be quiet and step out of the line. During the week things got a lot easier though and I tried to keep in mind that the Eurovision Song Contest is a big event and not easy to organise. Torino did well and for example public transportation worked really well with exceptional hours. I also felt safe all the time, even walking alone at 2 am. 

 Even on Tuesday my mood got better as soon as I saw Mika on stage. He was wearing a casual outfit with oversized baggy jeans and a cap backwards which was a cute surprise after his formal outfit on Monday and next to Laura’s fancy pink dress. He must have been tired but his whole appearance sent kind vibes. He was focused on his work but took dance steps here and there, smiled to his co-hosts and entertained the audience. He sets standards very high. Because of him I expect more from everyone and I expect more from myself.

 On Tuesday my seat was on the side close to the main stage (compared to Monday when I was further away but saw the stage directly) and I could see the performers in a more detailed way and I could feel how hot the flames actually are. They are so hot it must be even dangerous for the artists. I was sitting different sides of the venue on different days so I saw each performance from several angles. During the final live show I was sitting high but felt still lucky to have a ticket for that one as well. It was extremely difficult to buy one and on Saturday I understood why. Most seats were allocated to different companies and even the fan clubs in different countries got only a small allocation. I didn’t know about the tiny area right in front of stage, if I had known I would have bought those tickets for the rehearsals. Generally I felt lucky with my purchases.

The level during the second semifinal (rehearsals and the live show on Wednesday and Thursday) was higher than during the first semifinal (rehearsals and the live show on Monday and Tuesday). Of my personal favourites Ukraine and Armenia performed at the first semifinal and the both made it to the final. The photos of Armenia and Ukraine are taken on Monday and Saturday. I added a photo of Latvia because I thought their performance with strong lights and suits in different colours looked visually clear and there’s also a photo of Norway’s wolves, this year the only ones in fantasy costumes.

The second semifinal had more competition than the first one. Of my own favourites in this semifinal were countries like Australia, Poland and Azerbaijan (all kind of similar genre), Sweden (more pop), Serbia (really unique), Estonia (a good mood song but not as strong as I had thought in advance), San Marino (rock style) and of course also Finland which was not on my list but obviously something for me to support. All the countries except San Marino made it to the grand final even though I thought also Achille Lauro representing San Marino could have fit in quite nicely. The biggest surprise was Mika announcing “Finland!” which created a nice memory for me.

After the second semifinal my biggest favourite was Sheldon Riley from Australia because the song had a touching theme and because his performance was impressive and powerful. I felt also weirdly fascinated by Serbia and had both the Sweden and UK entries playing in my head. Below some photos of all of these countries, along with Finland, taken on Saturday.

The biggest highlight during the rehearsals and live show on Wednesday and Thursday was naturally Mika doing a duet with Laura Pausini. I posted some clips from rehearsals on my Instagram and I have to say I probably enjoyed the rehearsals even more than the live show because the vibe was so relaxed but the official performance was lovely as well. Mika and Laura did Fragile by Sting and People Got The Power by Patti Smith and the both songs were surprises to me, I couldn’t have guessed them, but I loved them both and the message in the both songs seemed extremely suitable with out time. It was wonderful to see Mika hosting in English a full week but it was even more wonderful to hear him singing and I truly enjoyed the duet and it was an important moment for me. Obviously, I have to give credit to Laura Pausini as well. She’s an amazing and impressive singer, like a queen on stage.

Then it was time for the most important part of the week, Friday and Saturday. The grand final jury show, family show and live show and Mika performing his own solo performance: a medley of his songs. Absolutely fantastic performance and Mika at his best. Like a jackpot to his career to offer this performance to the huge Eurovision audience. I felt lucky to see his performance on stage three times. I wanted to follow his full adventure but obviously for me his solo performance was the biggest highlight of the week. I saw it for the first time on Friday from a higher perspective (the first time during the week I was sitting on the second floor) and in the Saturday afternoon from the first floor side when I took the photos below. 

I knew in advance Mika would do a medley and perform his new single Yo-Yo. It was obvious one of the songs in the medley would be Grace Kelly, the others were still to guess and they turned out to be Love Today and Happy Ending and these songs created a fantastic mini show together with elements like his two pianos, the bigger one having a raising platform for Mika to dance during Yo-Yo. He was standing there on one foot like a flamingo and I was listening to the song and thought oh this is absolutely amazing, for now on I want to hear Yo-Yo at every single gig preferably danced like this and I realised only later how high he actually was and how tiny the platform was. It must have been challenging to dance on it and yet there he was.

Mika’s performance culminated beautifully during Happy Ending. The enormous red heart appeared in the middle of the stage, the dance group with hearts in their shirts grouped around Mika and the audience became a sea of thousands of hearts everyone waving their “flag of love”. It was beautiful, it was powerful. 

During the grand final live I was sitting high on the third floor. The atmosphere was quite good even there but as I had already seen the performance from a higher perspective and from a side perspective I moved down after the contestants had done their performances to find a place to stand and watch behind the audience the heart in front of me. I found a suitable place where guests (who had seats in the corporate areas) and people working at the venue kept coming and going and some people had stopped to watch the show and I thought I could stay there a few minutes just to see Mika’s performance.

First there was Måneskin performing their new single as a guest. People in the corporate area were drinking and chatting and I wondered how everything would be when it’s Mika’s turn and then his show elements appeared on stage and suddenly the atmosphere became electric. Everyone turned their attention to him and started to wave their flags - not only during Happy Ending and after seeing the big heart but immediately when he started Love Today - and he did his amazing performance. I took photos to later remember how the rainbow lights made the whole arena beautiful and how distinctive the heart looked in the middle of it and how incredible it was to see the whole audience waving their flags and I had tears in my eyes, it really was touching and I felt lucky and grateful to be there and to be able watch everything. One of my favourite ever things to see this performance live for sure.

It was wonderful to see the crowd’s reaction. His impact was amazing, there was no doubt he was the biggest star of the night and that wasn’t just my biased observation, the social media started to compliment him as soon as he started his performance. I’m happy to see people appreciating Mika and I hope the attention he gets around the Eurovision will bring him many new opportunities.

At the same time I keep thinking that it’s not he’s suddenly somehow different. Mika has been a professional artist since he was a child. He was born with great talent and creativity. He’s a wonderful multilingual host because of his background and because he has done live television in several different countries for almost a decade. He works harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. He never settles less than magical with every album, every tour, every performance. Mika has an impeccable sense of style. He makes his shows both sound and look extraordinary, his stage performing is always exceptional. 

 When Mika does his work every detail is art. His career has been a beautiful, colourful journey and it keeps continuing. Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in Torino was a beautiful addition to everything he has done and it was hugely important for me to be in the audience and watch the recordings in real life. We were lucky to get also official clips to see Mika working behind the scenes, watch these great videos to follow his Eurovision journey: Mikavision: Episode 1, Mikavision: Episode 2, Mikavision: Episode 3, Mikavision: Episode 4.

Obviously, the European Song Contest is about music and contestants. After Mika’s performance it was time to have the results. Maybe it was just me but it felt that after Mika’s performance the electricity disappeared a bit and people just waited for the results. I wasn’t surprised that the UK, Sweden and even Spain did that well. All three were kind of mainstream in their own way, all of them had been playing also in my head during the week. I wasn’t surprised that Serbia did well, it was unique and catchy. I was hoping my own favourite Australia had done better but this wasn’t the year for strong ballads like that. I’m happy that people voted Ukraine, the song is catchy and it was time to tell a message. World peace is even more important than music. Below some photos of Ukraine’s big moment.

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