Monday, May 26, 2008

2008 Eurovision Belgrade Was a Big Hit!

By MV Pejakovich

Last year, the 2007 Eurovision win of Marija Serifovic was not only a big morale booster for Serbia at the time, it also meant that the Eurovision was coming to Belgrade in 2008 -- an opportunity that was met with both hope and trepidation by all concerned. The enormous amount of time, money an preparation that was going to be necessary to show the world that "Belgrade could pull this off" with organization and style to showcase this capital city at it's European best, was not for the faint of heart. This was especially true, given that of all the many talents Serbs may be known to possess, "organization" is generally not "a national trait" -- yet "organization" was an essential skill for hosting 15,000 visitors to the city, coordinating the performances and voting on acts from 43 countries, with live performance broadcasting and voting from around the world in an arena of twenty-two thousand people.

Even after many months of planning, events in Belgrade in February of this year following the declaration of Kosovo independence almost derailed Eurovision 2008 in Belgrade.

The burning of the US embassy and looting by a small number of rioters in Belgrade on February 22nd, 2008, raised security concerns
for the European Broadcasting Union, and for a short time, the sponsors were considering changing the venue to another country. But security guarantees by Serbia ultimately alleviated their fears and within a few days, Eurovision Belgrade was back on track again.

Ultimately, last week Eurovision 2008 came to Belgrade and the Eurovision 2008 Finals were held and broadcast this last Saturday night, telecast live around the world to several hundred million people. Eurovision Belgrade 2008 was a beautiful, well-organized, brilliant hit!

The news outlet Blic reported:
According to CNN, “Serbian authorities went out of their way to throw a well-organized party, seizing the chance to present the country to the world as a normal European nation after years of pariah status in the 1990s under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.”

According to BBC, Serbia and Belgrade have proven to be part of Europe and have shown a friendly face to numerous guests, something which hasn’t been seen in the media for a long time.

German broadcasting station “
Deutsche Welle” highly praises Belgrade for hosting the greatest Eurovision so far, with 43 participating countries and for perfect organization at the “Belgrade Arena”, as well as in the city center, where thousands of people watched the live broadcast.
Even the representatives of the ex-Yugoslav countries had lots of positive things to say about their Eurovision experience in Belgrade. Delegations from Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia, Macedonia , Montenegro and Slovenia participated in the contest and enjoyed the Belgrade nightlife.

As an American --prior to reporting on Marija Serifovic's win last year -- I had never even heard of "Eurovision". But, Saturday, I viewed the entire 3 hr and 18 minute live broadcast of the Eurovision 2008 Finals online, and now I understand friends who been hooked on this annual high-camp phenomena for years. Where else can you see a pop singer on the same stage with a world class violinist and an Olympic Gold Medalist ice skater, all performing at the same time? (And, this Russian threesome, led by Dima Bilan, even turned out to be the 2008 Eurovision winners!)

A new arrangement of Marija Serifovic's 2007 winner, "Molitva", opened the show and wasn't to be missed. And a familiar face, Vlade Divac, even made an appearance, throwing a basketball into the audience to open the live, worldwide voting.

At the end, there was the tiniest bit of sadness that "lightning" didn't choose to strike twice in the same spot (or even in the same neighborhood) with another Balkan Eurovision win. Serbia's entry, "Oro" sung by Jelena Tomasevic was really beautiful and even Croatia's entry, which also made it to the finals, featured a nice song by some sweet old guys. But this was not to be, because this year it was Russia's turn. And in May, 2009 --for the first time in Eurovision history -- Moscow will be the Eurovision hosts.

Overall, hosts Zeljko Joksimovic and Jovana Jankovic, the organizers of Eurovision 2008, and the City of Belgrade, took their bows to verbal standing ovations. They had made their country -- and Serbs everywhere -- once again, very proud!

And many thanks are once again due to that a little "long-shot entry" from Kragujevac, named Marija Serifovic -- and her fans -- without whom this opportunity would not have been possible !

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