So it’s that time of year again, time for the annual review of who likes who in Europe, thinly disguised as a song contest, which takes place in Kiev tomorrow night. Apparently, other parts of Europe take the whole contest, started to promote European harmony and song writing, very seriously. However in the UK it is viewed as a combination of camp entertainment and a musical train wreck thanks in no small part to the commentary provided by Terry Wogan for the BBC.
There has already been one bit of shock news, with Ireland being booted out at the semi-final stage – a far cry from their run of wins a few years back where it almost got to the point that they couldn’t afford to host the competition for another year! Of course, as the British stump up a lot of the cash to stage the competition, we automatically get through to the final, however badly our song does each year.
The marathon show splits into two parts. In the first part the 24 countries (14 who either scored well enough last year, or like the UK provide a lot of the cash to run the competition, and 10 who qualified from the semi-final on Thursday) out of the original 39 will each play their song. In between each song, the host country, this year Ukraine – who won the previous years competition – gets a chance to show a series of brief films highlighting aspects of the country. After the songs, there is an interval act, that is sometimes more memorable than the songs (remember Riverdance? Bet you can’t remember the song that won in that year though!), which gives everybody in the 39 participating countries a chance to vote by phone.
After that comes perhaps the most bizarre part of the whole affair, when one by one, each country gives marks from 1 to 12 points, based on the top ten songs in the results of their phone vote. This method of course gives small countries such as Malta equal voting power to populous countries such as Russia. It is also the point where you get the impression that there is something very strange going on. Greece and Cyprus will always give each other top marks. All the Baltic countries vote for each other, as do all the parts of the former Yugoslavia. All the former Soviet republics always give Russia a big vote. The UK always tends to place Ireland pretty highly, but our points are very dependant on how popular we are in Europe at the time. For example when Tony Blair was elected in 1997, we won. However after a number of years of the UK making itself unpopular, when the UK joined the USA in invading Iraq, we got “nil-point”. (It is worth saying that in that year we also had a singer who started in a different key from the backing track, so we didn’t even pick up one or two votes as we usually do). As our entry last year has said “The results are not important, as long as you don’t end up with zero“.
If you’re really interested, the Wikipedia has an extensive section on the contest, including the bizarre voting patterns, and the other rules and regulations – plus it also has the results of every single contest since the first in 1956.
Current favourite looks to be Greece. However as is usual the bookies will have got it totally wrong, and Terry Wogan will be left amazed at the voting!