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Bloody Eurovision

WoganEver since I was a small child, I have utterly detested the Eurovision song contest. Far from being a display of the diversity of the Europe whilst simultaneously showing how we can all get along, the contest has been marked by the social chauvinism of that dinosaur Wogan and the drab and ridiculous soft pop acts of nations which should stick to manufacturing alcohol.

How fitting that, just as he is considering stepping down, Wogan crowns an inglorious, inconstant tenure as Eurovision commentator with some of his most appalling comments yet. Denouncing the competition as “no longer a music contest,” Wogan declared that “Russia were going to be the political winners from the beginning.” Needless to say, the UK finished last. Again.

Frankly I’m glad the UK finished last. Though our entrant wasn’t as utterly cringe-worthy as some of our previous entries, it was still pretty awful. Even when the UK won the contest back in 1997, Katrina and the Waves’ song “Love Shine a Light” was in the most god-awful traditions of insipid, soft pop. We may as well redesign the flag with S-Club 7 on the front of it, if this sort of music is the standard bearer of the UK.

Is it any wonder we finished last?

Pictured to the right are last year’s entry and our former Prime Minister. I’m at pains to decide who the joke was on; us, him or them.

You can usually judge how good or bad a UK entry is by how many points Ireland give it. More often than not, the UK score 12 or 10 points from the Irish, but this time they received a mere 8. Just goes to show, when even countries whose economy is largely dependent upon you won’t vote for your entry, your entry is rubbish. But Sir Terry had a nice barb in the tail of his comments.

“Indeed, western European participants have to decide whether they want to take part from here on in because their prospects are poor.” All of western Europe should think about abandoning the concert because, god forbid, music which Wogan doesn’t like, from nations outside the rather arrogantly culture-centric west, might win! Oh no! The world is coming to an end!

Bearing in mind that Bilan is actually a well-known artist, having sung a duet with Nelly Furtado and made an album with Timbaland, I think it’s a bit preposterous to assert that he won merely because of the political voting that goes on. The ex-Soviet states all gave Russia twelve points each – but even had that not been the case, the maths and the culture clearly stack up against western Europe.

There are a potential fifty one nations taking part in the contest and of those perhaps only twelve would be considered western European. All the nations outside the ‘Big Four’ have to compete with each other to get into the final 24 spaces – Germany, France, the UK and Spain all qualify automatically. Unsurprisingly, all four of those nations often put forward preposterous entries.

The Eurovision song contest has certainly changed a lot since it was founded, but there’s no call for the rather shabby, dirty remarks of Wogan and his ilk. Next we’ll have the BNP claiming it’s all a fix and that all those bloody Eastern Europeans should go back to their own damn contest. It would even be something if Wogan’s remarks had any basis in fact.

EurovisionActually western European countries have had a pretty healthy record even after many of the eastern nations were admitted. Half of the former Yugoslav nations joined in 1993, with Russia, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Estonia all joining in 1994. Yet from 1993 – 2000, it was pretty much entirely western European victories and runners-up.

The only exceptions were Israel winning in 1998 and Poland and Russia coming runners-up in 1994 and 2000 respectively. After 2000, things do shift east, but guess what? Most of the countries of Europe are to the east of Germany. Welcome to geography 101, Eurovision style.

Even then, countries considered within the ‘western’ sphere still do well – Greece, Turkey, Denmark and Belgium all appear, if we restrict things to the top two places.

It irks me just a little bit when people get away with spouting such rubbish as Wogan does. He always had a repertoire of sordid and dismissive put-downs, unworthy of any commentator of any competition, suitably biased towards the home countries such as Ireland and the UK.

Russia scored 272 points: wit 25 countries competing, that was 272 points out of a possible total of 300 – so evidently the eastern European nations weren’t the only ones to think the Russian song was by far better than some of the other pathetic entries. Honestly I couldn’t care if San Marino, who debuted last night, won the bloody thing – but had the UK or France run away with it, would Wogan have been talking like he did?

I doubt it.

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Categories: Music, News from Abroad
  1. Lewis
    May 25, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Not sure this warrants discussion, but it was clearly a fix; anybody with an ounce of musical taste could see that the Latvian entry (the pirate song) was clearly the best.

  2. May 25, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Prize for the most racist entry on to Comment is Free goes to this chap.

  3. Pete
    May 26, 2008 at 12:06 am

    You know, I’m quite surprised at your distaste for Wogan. I would have thought that his ‘say it as he sees it’ approach would appeal to you. On the other hand, I’m not surprised at your feelings towards Eurovision as a whole.

    Now granted, saying Russia was always going to win it was ridiculous, especially given that Wogan himself couldn’t guess before the voting. There still is some room for merit in the competition, such that the winner is usually a way off awful (as far as Eurovision goes) – my faith in this was restored with Lordi :-D.

    But his claim about the difficulties for western European countries was not simply an assertion about the number of times they have won. Looking at how bloc voting works now, it *is* extremely unlikely a western country could win, regardless of merit. Wikipedia tells me that academic studies back this up, but it doesn’t provide links so take that for what it’s worth.

    So what he said wasn’t mere racism or nationalism, but based on pretty undesputable facts about how the voting actually goes. Complain about his presenting style if you will, but the claim is pretty accurate.

    Not that I particularly care!

  4. May 26, 2008 at 12:15 am

    By ‘how bloc voting works now’ I presume that you mean how political everything seems to be?

    That’s always been the way of it – probably one of the reasons Germany has only won once (think it was once anyway). Yet Germany has the good grace to continue to be one of the big backers of the contest. I suppose next Wogan will be telling us that’s a result of Holocaust guilt!

    Even despite that, however, the smaller countries still seem to punch well above their weight. The only reason Ireland hasn’t won Eurovision two or three times in a row this decade is that it proved ruinously expensive the last time. Ireland, despite having few ‘political’ voting allies outside the UK has won the contest more than any other nation.

    The UK and France have won it five times each. Now granted, outside the 1997 victory for the UK, all of those were before the eastern nations began to be admitted. Nevertheless, I’m more inclined to believe that people are genuinely voting for the music and act closest to their own culture. Which makes it little surprise that the western nations are winning less.

    On the other hand, it would be good if we actually made an effort! Lordi put on a bloody good show the other year…now compare that to Scooch. Would you have given them douze points?

  5. Pete
    May 26, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Don’t worry, I realise that most UK entries are awful, Scooch especially.

    I’d like to be persuaded by your culture argument, but do you really think the music represents the home culture? I don’t think the ridiculous tacky pop we tend to submit reflects the general musical culture of this country at all. Something along the lines of David Gray or the Kaiser Chiefs would better express our taste in music. Maybe other countries are better at expressing themselves, Finland being a recent case in point, but I’d say it’s the exception.

  6. May 26, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Okay, the UK hasn’t won since 1997 and has done especially badly since 2003 – could the wars in Europe, Middle East, explain the UK’s poor show in Eurovision?

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