THIS year’s UK Eurovision hopeful who hails from Hartlepool has made an entrance in front of the world’s press on an all-glitz and glamour orange carpet ahead of the big competition this weekend.

Michael, 21, who has harboured dreams of performing on stage throughout his childhood realised his potential after being selected from six artists competing in Eurovision: You Decide, the British national selection show for the contest.

The Hartlepool-born singer secured his place in the finals of the competition with the song Bigger Than Us, which he will be performing live in front of thousands in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday.

Among the crowd will be diehard Eurovision enthusiasts, Martin Phillips and Darron Copeland have been attending the contest annually since the event in Athens in 2006.

The pair will be providing behind-the-scenes updates from Tel Aviv for The Northern Echo this week ahead of the final on May 18.

They said: "Despite being in the sunny Tel Aviv, just steps from the beach, Hartlepool's Michael Rice has been shuttling back and forth from his hotel to the Expo Center here in Israel’s party capital.

"In a press conference at the Expo Center, the location of the 64th Eurovision Song Contest, Michael lamented that he had seen very little of Tel Aviv or Israel so far, as he has been constantly working with his crew and backing singers to hone the United Kingdom’s entry Bigger Than Us to perfection for Saturday’s final.

"While hopes have been dashed in recent years, many are hoping that Michael could bring the UK back to the left side of the scoreboard, after many years of languishing at or towards the bottom.

"It’s ten years since Jade Ewan placed the UK in the top ten in Moscow with It’s My Time, and a generation – 22 years since Katrina and the Waves last won with Love Shine A Light – one of the most successful Eurovision songs of all time.

"Michael is still adjusting his delivery of the song for the final – admitting in Sunday’s press conference that he was still treating the song with some spontaneity, deciding what works best for him, while relying on his backing singers to provide consistent, reliable support.

"By Saturday, he should be sure of his delivery, since Eurovision nerves coupled with the slightest uncertainty could be a recipe for disaster."

"Spending almost two hours on the Orange Carpet at Tel Aviv’s beautiful Habima Square on Sunday night talking to the press lining the barriers, Michael shared that his crew were trying to keep him from talking too much to protect his voice for Saturday.

"Michael was the last to arrive on the Orange Carpet and was kept talking for so long that he missed most of the opening party, where Dana International and other past Eurovision performers were entertaining this year’s delegations.

"Michael’s mother and nana are due to arrive on Friday to support him. Michael is also hoping to take a ride in a hot air balloon and looking forward to visiting Jerusalem with other competitors and press on Wednesday."

Swansea-born Mr Phillips and Mr Copeland from New Jersey, in the US, have been reporting from Eurovision contests across the continent since Mr Phillips, in 2013, began broadcasting for Welsh radio stations.