A Song for Europe
It’s spring, it’s May, and it’s time to reach for the Union Flags and for ‘campness’ to grip all the nations of Europe once again. Yes, it’s time for the annual flag waving festival that is The Eurovision Song Contest.
This time the host nation is Portugal, the home of Fado singers and Pasteis de nata, with the event being staged at the Altice Arena in Lisbon. It now seems that it takes four presenters to host the show, Filomena Cautela, Sílvia Alberto, Daniela Ruah and Catarina Furtado. Such was the talent that was Terry Wogan who managed to host the show all on his own; it now clearly takes four people to replace him.
As I write this we have just endured the first of three 120 minute programmes featuring everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. From Israel’s chicken dance song to Belarus and roses growing out of a singer’s back, to the height of camp operetta pop from Estonia. Forty three countries have elected to take part in this year’s contest including Australia who have now, it seems, secured regular entrance into Eurovision. Now, my geography only extends to a grade B ‘O’ level (showing my age here), but on my globe Australia is on the opposite side of the world to Europe, but then Israel isn’t in Europe and neither is Russia and the Ukraine so let’s not let geographical positioning get in the way of the world’s largest simultaneous live television broadcast. In fact, the show is also popular and is broadcast in the USA and China and many other countries watching it on the internet. Interestingly, if Australia should win the contest they would have to pick a country in Europe to act as a proxy host for the following year’s contest as the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), who own the rights to Eurovision, doesn’t extend to Australasia.
The big shock story so far is that Azerbaijan has failed for the first time since their inaugural entrant in 2008 to be voted through to the live final on Saturday. However, Ireland have succeeded in securing a place on Saturday with Ryan O’Shaughnessy singing “Together”. Ireland are the most successful country in the history of the contest, notching up seven wins but have failed to make it to the grand final since 2013.
Twenty six countries will take part in this year’s final with the UK’s entrant, SuRie singing “Storm” taking the 9th spot.
The UK along with France, Germany, Spain, Italy are the so called ‘Big Five’ who finance the event and as such have a right to immediately take part in the final as does Portugal as the host nation.
The most controversial aspect of the Song Contest surrounds that of the voting; with geo-political posturing dictating where countries place their top votes. So in the past Cyprus would vote for Greece and vice versa, the Ukraine withholding votes for Russia, the Baltic countries and Scandinavian countries voting for their neighbours and with the UK and Brexit turning even Ireland and Malta away from us securing their vote. This all changed in 2016 with a radical change in the way the votes are presented, now a spokesperson from the 43 participating countries award the points of their professional jury, after this the televoting points from all participating countries are combined, providing one score for each song. These televoting results will then be announced by the show’s host, starting with the country receiving the fewest points from the public and ending with the country that received the highest number of points. This is designed to eliminate the geo-political voting of the past and builds towards a guaranteed climax which can unexpectedly turn the tide of the voting adding a new level of excitement.
So what to look out for, well definitely not the interval act which will feature Portuguese fado primadonnas Mariza and Ana Moura.
Meanwhile, let’s hope that on Saturday the UK doesn’t receive ‘nil point’ and wish ‘bon chance’ to SuRie.