How long until you lose? That’s the question being asked of all the performers at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Because when you put aside the fan polls, the Juke Box Juries, the countless hours of fan discussions over mojitos, there’s a simple truth. Every song is going to lose.
Every song bar one, that is. Sitting on top of 42 other songs in Dusseldorf, on top of the hundreds of songs that made it to the National Finals, on top of tens of thousands of submissions to each broadcaster. And every artist, somewhere inside them, believes that they are the one who can beat the odds. That’s the same belief that drives every competitor around the world.
But Eurovision is not all about the winning. It’s something more. It’s about being together, sharing, and exploring the future.
Set up in the late 50’s by Marcel Bezençon, the Contest was started to bring together the countries and citizens of Europe in the post WWII landscape; to experiment with live television and new technologies; and of course to put on a great light entertainment show.
Almost sixty years later, the Contest is still fulfilling the aims of Bezencon and the EBU Committee who pushed through the vision.
Look at how many people around Europe talk about the Contest on a daily basis, and look how many more join them in the annual pilgrimage around the musical tastes of the continent. Look at the speed of ticket sales for the finals and semi-finals, which rivals that of stadium shows from the likes of Foo Fighters to Take That? These are people across Europe (and around the world) gathering for something that is more than three minutes of song from each country.
The fact that you are reading this article is another feather in the cap for the EBU and Eurovision. Early on in the life of the world wide web, the EBU pretty much opened their doors and provided equal access to websites, bloggers, and online journalists that was the equal of that provided to the mainstream press. That is still relatively unknown in most competitive sports and events and has allowed Eurovision to essentially live all year round, and not be dependant on the national broadcasters to connect the fans.
That’s before you even look at the technology pushed by the EBU around the contest, with streaming video around the world (provided for free), social networks, and blogs and deep integration into Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It might not be the network Bezençon had in mind, but it’ll do till something better comes along in 2027.
Or how about the deeper understanding of the countries, regions and tensions in Europe? There can’t be a Eurovision watcher who doesn’t know about the cultural relationships between the countries of Europe. Greece and Cyprus awarding each other twelve points? Why the tension between Georgia and Russia? Or Belarus and everyone else? How come Azerbaijan and Armenia never acknowledge each other? What are the emigration patterns from Eastern Europe into the West? Show me a national curriculum that can teach that as quickly and graphically as the voting at the Song Contest!
And then there’s the friendships. How do you bring together a Scandinavian travel consultant in Australia and a Podcaster in the UK to put together a website? Through Eurovision (because that’s what Sharleen and I still do when it’s not early May and we’re on opposite sides of the planet). How many more friendships do I have because of the Song Contest? Far too many to list here, and every one of them has their own web of friends around the globe, all joined together through Eurovision.
As the Contest grows closer, there’ll be more voices saying that it’s just an unwanted Contest that nobody wants to win. That’s wrong on two counts. Every artist is there to win, and they want to win. Everyone in the audience in the Esprit Arena wants the Contest to continue (and knows, deep down, that it will). The tens of millions of TV views that tune in, live, and vote, want the Contest in their lives.
There might be one name at the top of the score table at the end of Saturday May 14th 2011, but the Eurovision Song Contest makes everybody a winner.