Only the luckiest fans were able to attend this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam. UG student Medina and PhD candidate Luis were among them.
The moment Duncan Laurence won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019, Luis Suarez knew he would do all he could to make it to the 2020 edition in the Netherlands. The theoretical chemistry PhD candidate has been a Eurovision fan since 2012, when he was still living in Mexico.
The contest isn’t really known in his home country, but ‘watching it on YouTube, I liked that it brings people together across any boundaries’, he says.
He managed to get a ticket, but then the event was cancelled because of the pandemic. One year later, he had to go through a lottery to redeem last year’s ticket, because instead of 10,000, only 3,500 people were allowed in per show.
Luis was lucky again: he snagged a spot for the grand final jury show. ‘I would have preferred to go to the live show, but I was happy just to be inside the concert venue’, he says.
‘It’s unbelievably amazing: from the moment you come out of the metro, you can see everyone sparkling in shiny clothes, wearing wigs, waving flags. As I was getting closer to the venue, I thought: this is happening, we’re finally here.’
What you don’t realise before entering the Ahoy Arena is how many people are involved in the contest, says law master student Medina Gasjimova. ‘I think there were more than one thousand people working there.’
As a host for the Azerbaijani delegation, she didn’t just attend every show, but was also allowed backstage. ‘My delegation asked me to join them in the Green Room next to the arena, which is not an option for hosts usually’, she says. ‘So when they rehearsed, I sat there and watched their performance.’
During the shows, however, she stayed in the special corona-proof bubble that was assigned to every delegation. ‘From there, you can see all the dressing rooms and hear people singing, dancing, walking off their pre-performance nerves.’
As a Dutch citizen of Azerbaijani descent, she speaks both languages, which made her the perfect person to help singer Efendi and her team with their day to day routines in the Netherlands.
Medina volunteered at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Amsterdam and loved the atmosphere, but this time, the connection with the Azerbaijani culture was equally important to her. ‘If you listen to their song, you can hear a lot of cultural references in it’, she says. ‘So you can share your culture with the whole world and that’s so impressive.’
Meanwhile, Luis connected with his fellow audience members, despite having to wear a mask. ‘There was a DJ playing Eurovision songs from the past, and my neighbour and I became friends immediately because we both knew them by heart.’
He could also see which artists people sang along with and applauded the most: France, Finland, Ukraine and, of course, the Italian glam rock band Maneskin. ‘I think they deserved to win, it was a very nice song that people connected to.’
Eurovision feels like a family, says Luis. ‘It was nice to see hundreds of people having fun together. We waited for this for two years and when it happened, everybody was there to give it their all.’