My night at Eurovision: From set transitions to Subwoolfer – what it’s like to be in Turin’s Pala Olimpico come showtime

The vibe in the stadium is massive (Picture: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

.

Mika is one of the hosts tonight (Picture: AP)

It’s an odd feeling actually seeing Eurovision in all its glitzy, gaudy, eccentric glory up close (well, close-ish, the PO is pretty enormous, though intimate compared to some past venues). What you get on TV is the polished product, just the head of the swan if you like.

Sat in the stalls you get to see the frantic paddling of a road crew handed the Herculean task of a succession of quick set changes – whatever happened to just standing at a mic and singing? – while a flotilla of stage managers grapple with a stage design that’s been a mighty headache ever since they discovered its key LED sun installation took way too long to do anything useful. Some acts disappear in a blizzard of lights.

And then we have Subwoolfer… (Picture: AFP)

So I find myself so weirdly mesmerised by all the peripheral shenanigans that a trio of songs have come and gone before I’ve fully cottoned on there’s a contest happening. Hardly fair on the bouncy Czechs, slinky hipped Romanians or wistfully melodic Portuguese: at home I’d have been scoring them on song, costumes, key change and dance routine – here they’ve been and gone in a flash.

Because there’s so much to distract you, from the pockets of flag-waving superfans clustered around the arena like a Game of Thrones gathering – it feels like an Olympic parade, only with way more sequins – to the Italian smart set clustered in a topiary hedgerow down front. The Eurovision crowd’s take on camp covers all bases.

Curiously, it feels like much of the Italian contingent in the crowd have turned up as much to worship at the altar of rock gods Måneskin in the interval as they have done to see the contest itself, so they’re mostly taking selfies. Me, I’m back to the business in hand because my song is coming on.

More: Eurovision Song Contest

Eurovision 2022 running order confirmed and UK star Sam Ryder has reason to celebrate

UK hopeful Sam Ryder: ‘We need to turn off this toxic negative stigma towards Eurovision’

Eurovision drinking game rules for 2022 song contest – can you handle it?

Yes, after years of songwriters criminally refusing to drop the name Keith into their lyrics, Norway’s wolf guys Subwoolfer have come up with the goods with novelty shot Give That Wolf A Banana – cheered by the best hats in the hall. They’re up and I’m all eyes on the stage now. Game on.

Keith Watson went to Eurovision 2022 in Turin with Booking.com