Latest posts by Alex Mitchell (see all)
- Melodifestivalen 2019 - 9 March, 2019
- The year that was 2018 – Part 6: Oceanian politics - 2 January, 2019
- The year that was 2018 – Part 5: European politics - 1 January, 2019
Right in the middle of the UK General Election campaign it’s great to take a break and enjoy the world’s biggest non-sporting TV event. The Eurovision Song Contest is back and this year it comes from Kyiv, Ukraine following Jamala’s victory in Stockholm with her song ‘1944’. The first act to win under the new, tense voting system saw Ukraine beat Jury favourite, Australia’s Dami Im and the Public’s favourite, Russia’s Sergey Lazerev.
If you think no one really cares about Eurovision, I can assure you the Russians do. They put so much in to the contest last year, no expense was spared yet they ended up in third. They were the first to complain about the new voting system and threatened to quit the contest. This comes after years of threatening to quit the contest over its ‘Pro LGBT Propaganda’ nature. In 2013 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov summoned the Azerbaijani Ambassador after their former soviet allies failed to give them any points. Later at a press conference with the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Lavrov accused the Eurovision organisers of ‘Stealing 10 points’ from the Azerbaijani votes (10 points would not have won them the contest).
To this year’s contest, and we start with Russia! The first of two scandals this year, Russia’s artist Yulia Samoylova was banned from entering Ukraine by the government after illegally traveling from Russia to newly annexed Crimea in 2014 to give a performance. The Eurovision Broadcasting Union, the organisers of the contest, are a non-political entity and expressed disappointment with the Ukrainian government, however they would not intervene. Russia were offered two options: perform via satellite or get a new act to represent them. They declined both and withdrew from the contest. Regulars of the contest will find it hard to deny the existence of political or block voting and Russia is probably the biggest beneficiary of this. I’ve done a bit of number crunching and last year Russia took 57% of the 12 & 10 points awarded. Over the last 10 years Russia have claimed 20% of the 12 & 10 points awarded and have won points from 64% of voting nations. In that time they only won once. Compare this to Sweden. Last year Sweden took 24% of the top two awards and came 5th. Over the last 10 years Sweden have taken 16% of the top two awards and won twice; they’ve also won points from 56% of voting nations. So with Russia’s exit from the contest this frees up a significant number of votes.
The second scandal was to do with the organisation of the contest. Delays beset the organisation with decision-making coming to a standstill. The entire organising team quit back in February amid claims they had their responsibilities stripped from them by the new director. The EBU then pulled in Christer Björkman who is the organiser behind Sweden’s national selection, Melodifestivalen and the organising mind behind last year’s Eurovision to get the Kyiv organisers back on track. The scandals nearly forced the contest out of Ukraine with Berlin being touted as an alternate host city. this is Kyiv’s second time hosting the contest. Ukraine won for the first time in 2004 with Ruslana’s song ‘Wild Dancers’ They came close in 2007 but with arguably the most memorable 2nd place act in Verka Serduchka and her song ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbal'”.
So what else is news this year? Firstly you may remember that Romania was kicked out of the contest last year due to unpaid bills. Well their national broadcaster has come to an agreement with the EBU and they are back this year. What’s more they were an early favourite with their entry ‘Yodel it’ by Linca and Akex Florea. This year also sees the return of Portugal who gave 2016 a miss. After six attempts in recent years Portugal have made it through to the final with Salvador Sobral’s ‘Amar Pelos Dois’ and is one of the bookies favourites to win. Alongside Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina have pulled out due to financial difficulties.
If Sweden wins they will tie with Ireland for the nation that has won the contest the most times and with Eurovision being a national obsession Sweden will be looking to take the title this year, so who are the bookies backing? Whilst the odds keep changing. Italy’s Francesco Gabbani and his song ‘Occidentali’s Karma’ have been top of the tables since all songs were selected. Kristian Kotsov, who represents Bulgaria with his song ‘Beautiful Mess’ is a close second. Bulgaria stunned themselves last year by finishing fourth with their song ‘If Love Was a Crime’ by Poli Genova. Belgium’s Blanche with her song ‘City Lights’ completes the bookies top three. Following the success of the new voting system introduced last year the votes will remain split with the International Juries announcing their votes before the public votes from each country are added together and announced in reverse order.
What about the UK’s chances? This year marks the 20th anniversary since the UK last won the contest with Katrina and the Waves and her song ‘Love Shine A Light’. The UK is represented by Lucie Jones who won selection with her song ‘Never Give Up On You’. It was written by 2013’s winner, Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest. The UK doesn’t go through the semi-finals so we don’t get an indication of what the other nations think prior to the final but the European Press gave Jones the same level of praise as front runner Italy; what’s more the bookies have slashed the odds of the UK taking the title in half which is a vote of confidence. This is our first contest since the Brexit vote so if we take into account any European Politics this could be interesting. Last year the UK took away its first 12 points in five years from Malta so there is some hope out there.
Lastly I’ll leave you with this year’s Vada’s Top 10. For the first time we’ve introduced an international Jury alongside the public vote.
Thank you to:
For the UK Owain Wyn Evans, BBC Weatherman & Radio presenter
And last but not least Matt Horwood Senior Communications Officer for Stonewall.
Also thank you to the members of the public who submitted their votes.
Eurovision will be Live on BBC One at 8pm BST on Saturday 13th May