The Eurovision bus rolls on and this year we’re stopping off in the Swedish capital Stockholm.
It only seems like a few months ago that Mans Zermenlow won in Vienna with his song “Heroes” taking Sweden’s Eurovision total to 6 victories, only one behind Ireland who have won the contest 7 times.
The “Slogan” for this years contest is “Come together” and 42 countries are doing just that and we welcome back Australia who seem to have been accepted into the Eurovision family permanently, although they will have to qualify from their Semi-Final.
As is traditional no Eurovision Song Contest would be complete without a bit of controversy and this year we have an unusual mix, starting with Romania who with just under 3 weeks to the contest were unexpectedly “kicked out “due to mounting debts to the EBU.
Apparently they were given right to the last minute to respond to messages and try to sort out a repayment programme but with time running out the EBU regrettably pulled the plug on TVR’s Eurovision adventure.
Everyone at TVR are very disappointed that they are not competing at Eurovision 2016 but are hopeful that they will be allowed to return in 2017.
One country returning after a year absent is Ukraine whose song is called 1944.
It refers to the events of that year when Joseph Stalin accused the Crimean Tatar people of alleged collaboration of the Nazi regime and expelled over 200,000 men woman and children to Central Asia, mainly to Uzbekistan only allowing them to return during the final months of the Soviet Union.
The Ukrainian singer Jamala revealed her great grandmother was one of the Crimean’s that was forced to leave along with her 5 daughters, thrown onto trains like cattle with no food or water. Sadly one of the girls died during the journey. Jamala is quoted as saying “I understand that it is quite a sad story, but in my opinion all musicians have to sing about what really touches them.”
We now have to mention Belarus and the almost comical declaration that the singer wants to perform his song on stage “naked” with real live Wolves. Is he being serious or is it just a publicity stunt? Good news for the animal welfare people that it states in the rules that no live animals are allowed on stage and I’m sure the EBU are scrutinising the small print that somewhere it must claim that all singers must be appropriately dressed. Some happy news just announced here is that the Maltese singer Ira Loco is pregnant.
Ira performed in Semi-Final 1 with her song “Walk on water”, but she was not the first singer to perform at Eurovision while expecting a child. There have been 4 previous singers who have taken part while pregnant, but she wants to join the record books by being the first pregnant winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.
This years contest takes place in the Globen Arena which from the outside looks like a giant golf ball and was home to the contest last time staged in Stockholm back in 2000. Over 2000 accredited press have gathered here in the Swedish capital, everyone an expert and convinced they can predict this years winner.
We’ve all watched each delegation rehearse twice and this year we are all agreed that Russians are the team to beat.
Organising TV company SVT have decided to make a change to the voting system this year to try to make the winner unknown until the last vote is cast. In the past the winner
was known with 4 or 5 counties still to deliver their votes. This year the votes will be split between the jury’s and the televoting. The jury spokesperson will deliver their votes on screen but to save time the votes 1 to 10 will be shown on the scoreboard with the spokesperson delivering just the 12 points, hopefully cutting out the usual chat like “it’s really been a wonderful show” and how gorgeous the hosts look.
After the jury’s votes are all announced the hosts will then announce the collective televoting for each country, for example if 41 countries all gave one song 12 points (remember you can’t vote for your own county) then that is a possible 492 points, although mathematicians could in theory still work out the winner with 4 or 5 votes still to be announced.
18 countries took part in Semi Final 1 on Tuesday 10th of May and another 18 countries will participate in Semi final 2 on Thursday 12th May, and the top 10 from each Semi-Final will qualify for the Grand Final on Saturday 14th May.
Already qualified for the Grand Final, although no qualification was needed, are Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
They are the so called “big 5” who get preferential treatment from the EBU as they pay more money into the organisation.
Some say this is unfair and they should qualify like everyone else.
Europe perhaps show their displeasure of this by voting or not voting, as out of the big 5 only Germany have won the contest recently, back in 2010 when Lena won with “Satellite”. The United Kingdom last won in 1997, Italy last won in 1990, & France last lifted the trophy in 1977, but please feel sorry for Spain who last triumphed at Eurovision in 1969 and even then they had to share it with 3 other countries as nobody had invented a procedure in the event of there being a tie.
As is traditional the host country automatically gets a place in the Grand Final and young “Frans” who won Sweden’s Melodifestivalen with his song “If I was sorry” gets to sing in front of his home crowd and as stated earlier, if he wins then Sweden equals Irelands record of 7 victories.
So all the open rehearsals have now been completed and all press conferences taken place, and on Sunday we had the official welcome party where all the contestants get to “walk” the red carpet where press had the opportunity to take pictures and short interviews as all 42 participants parade before being ushered away for a grand dinner where they can all be polite to each other before the “Musical War” starts.