Tel Aviv pulled off a Eurovision to remember - reporter's notebook

KAN closes off a week of practically flawless broadcasts in grand style.

Conchita Wurst, Måns Zelmerlöw, Gali Atari, Eleni Foureira and Verka Serduchka perform during the Grand Final of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel May 18, 2019.  (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Conchita Wurst, Måns Zelmerlöw, Gali Atari, Eleni Foureira and Verka Serduchka perform during the Grand Final of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel May 18, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
After a year of anticipation, months of intense preparation, a whole week of festivities and an epic, four-hour live Eurovision broadcast, Tel Aviv slowly began returning to normal on Sunday.
Despite a series of bumps and hurdles along the way – and a few unwelcome surprises during the live grand final – the bottom line was undeniable: Israel put on an impressive, praiseworthy and memorable show for potentially up to 200 million viewers around the world.
While Israeli media spilled endless ink on budgetary struggles, BDS efforts and internal disputes, very little of that spilled over onto the screen during the three live Eurovision shows on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. And indeed for the thousands who visited Israel – as part of the delegations, the international media and the devoted fans – the past week has been all about one thing: the music and pageantry of the Eurovision.
Chatter in the press room all week long wasn’t about the threat of Hamas rockets, or the pro-Palestinian activism of Iceland’s Hatari. Few people were discussing the budget squabbles between KAN and the Israeli government, or even the drama surrounding Madonna’s contract with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
Instead, the hundreds of international media personnel gathered in Tel Aviv for a week were there to discuss the competition itself, the staging of the show, the drama of the semi-finals and the excitement of the contest. Superfans, bloggers and media from across Europe were abuzz all week long with the show’s developments, and a large heaping of praise for the Israeli production.
The postcard videos – the 40 second clips introducing each performer – were almost unanimously lauded by Eurovision fans for showcasing Israel’s beauty and fun spirit with their dance theme.
And watching the rehearsals and the performances live from Tel Aviv proved just how much effort KAN and the EBU put in to pulling off a practically flawless live broadcast on three separate nights. Between each three-minute performance, a team of workers swarmed the stage to prep for the next singer’s act, pulling props on and off, and resetting every detail for the next singer. 
The speed and efficacy required was in full display during the grand final, when the production team needed to swap immediately between Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke, who was strapped to a five-meter high swaying pole, and Spain’s Miki Nunez, who began his song in a mini two-story house. But they pulled it off in record time, including the worker who popped out with a five-meter high microphone stand for Miller-Heidke to stash her microphone on before she was wheeled off stage.
Attendees at the live shows were handed free glowing and flashing bracelets as they arrived, which made the shots of the audience pulse with excitement. Pavilion 2 at the Expo Tel Aviv was outfitted to the hilt with stationary, cable-rigged and hand-held cameras to provide every angle imaginable of the stage. No detail was overlooked.
The four Eurovision hosts may have stumbled here and there on their words, and Madonna’s performance was widely panned, but the 2019 Eurovision will be remembered as a successful, slick production.
And you don’t have to take my word for it.
Britain’s The Independent ran with a headline reading: “This year’s Eurovision was one of the best in recent memory,” praising the broadcasts “general splendor” and calling it “an incredible show.” CNN called the grand final “a showpiece that would have disappointed few Eurovision fans.” The New York Times said the show had “enough glitz, plumes of fire and special effects to invigorate even the blandest Europop.”
While Madonna may have provided headlines – especially in the US, where the Eurovision is largely ignored – true fans of the show weren’t all that excited to see her.
The devotees of the 64-year-old contest, however, were overjoyed at the musical interval “switch song,” which saw four Eurovision legends perform each other’s songs, including Austria’s Conchita Wurst and Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka, two unforgettable personalities from the show’s history.
The four singers then joined together with Israel’s Gali Atari to sing “Hallelujah,” the song that won the contest in Jerusalem in 1979. And the moment of Eurovision unity was one that left an impression on many fans.
“Eurovision: Everything changes, and everything stays the same,” said BBC’s Graham Norton of the rendition of “Hallelujah” during his live commentating. “What a real treat for Eurovision fans... a really special moment. A gorgeous moment.”