First day at school.

So here I am, slightly overwhelmed and bewildered, nervously clutching my complementary satchel and stumbling around the Olympic Indoor Arena, here in sunny Athens. Lots of goodies have been thrust into my hand… shrink-wrapped DVDs which I might never play, press releases, party invites, timetables, etc etc.

Chig (who knows EVERYONE) is being very good, and introducing me to people at the rate of about once every five minutes. I barely recall a single name, but everybody is very nice. It’s interesting how, every time you’re introduced to someone, both of your eyes flicker down to the ginormous laminated passes that hang, medallion-like, somewhere around your navel. Checking each other out: so, where’s he from? Is he P1, P2 or FAN? Subtle hierarchies prevail.

As for me, I’ve been granted P2 accreditation. Full access to the open rehearsals and press conferences, but – alarmingly – NO access to the press centre, with its banks of PCs and modem points. That’s strictly for the higher beings with P1.

So, in order to communicate with the outside world, I am obliged to hunker down in the press conference area, which has a good strong wi-fi signal. It’s manageable, so long as the blessed laptop doesn’t start blue-screening. There’s no rhyme or reason to this: it can work like a dream for hours on end, then it can just start crapping out randomly all over the place. But ever since I uninstalled Norton Antivirus, there has been a marked improvement. Fingers crossed.

What of the rehearsals so far? Today, we’ve got the decidedly stronger second half of the qualifiers, which go out on Thursday night on BBC3.

Russia are represented by a pretty boy called Dima Bilan, with a mullet nouveau and amazing fawn-like eyes. Having (frankly) slobbered all over him in his Gay Times preview, Chig has been informed that his comments have been circulated the length and breadth of Russia, and that they are being taken as a great portent for success on Thursday. So, naturally, he was right down the front for the press conference – and right in place to catch one of Dima’s complementary pillows, branded with his image. Sweet dreams tonight for Mister Chig!

The performance involves rose petals, and a white piano from which a woman’s head mysteriously emerges. At least, I think so. There was a bit of a crush down the front, and my eyes were still adjusting to the gloom.

A word about the arena. It’s not overly huge, so even the folks in the cheap seats should get a decent enough view. The stage is modelled around a classic Greek ampitheatre design, with banks of descending steps that also serve as video screens. I’ve seen fussier stage designs in my time, but this is fairly simple and it works well.

Eek, Lithuania are on in the next room. ‘Scuse me, must dash. Talk to you later.

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