Sunday 25 May 2008


The Late Spring Bank Holiday. Some things in life are inextricably linked to this weekend at the end of May. Wet weather (usually), the Play-off Finals of English Football and the Eurovision Song Contest. If you are reading this outside of Europe this probably doesn't mean much to you. Let's face it, if you're reading this inside Europe odds are it still doesn't mean much to you, especially if you are in the UK.

Once a year all the countries in Europe (and it really is all the countries) choose a song and enter the Contest. There are so many countries wanting to compete these days that semi-finals have to take place to reduce the number of entries to something approaching manageable. All the songs perform (one after the other) and there is then a voting period. All the countries who entered (even those who didn't make the grand final) have a telephone voting system. The results are then announced country by country. This used to be the fun part as each country in turn said "Hello Belgrade this is London calling" (or whatever). They'd then give out the votes in reverse order. This unfortunately had to stop as forty three countries giving out ten votes would just take too long. Now the first seven votes are put on the screen and only the top three read out. This takes away some of the fun.

Traditionally Eurovision is viewed with some mockery in the UK. We don't take it very seriously any more (which is probably why we come last). Unfortunately we don't have to take it seriously the UK are on of the 'big four' (the others being Germany, France and Spain) who due to their financial input don't have to qualify every year. The other automatic qualification spot is from the previous years winners, who also get to host the contest. This is a huge PR deal and tourist attraction (like I said the rest of Europe takes it more seriously than us) but very expensive. Some years ago Ireland won three years in a row... maybe that explains Dustin the Turkey this year (I didn't see their failed qualifying but I'm told it has to be seen to be believed).

I always like the Eurovision. Musically it generally hits my middle of the road taste pretty well. It's a fun evenings viewing on a Saturday night (especially if you record it so you can fast forward the rubbish songs). It always fun to see if anyone will actually vote for the UK's entry (the dreaded 'null points').

Recently though it hasn't been quite as much fun as it once was. The voting patterns were always viewed with tolerant amusement. Spain and Portugal would always vote for each other... Scandinavia always stuck together... and so on. It's not such fun these days though. The proliferation of entries from Eastern Europe means that even after the qualifying process there are still plenty of Eastern European countries left. They still all vote for each other too. So you need to be pretty exceptional to win. Recently we've been to Kyiv, Helsinki and Belgrade... with a momentary aberration going to Athens. Next year we're off to Moscow.

It used to be a bit of a joke, but now it just isn't funny but rather tedious.