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Understanding Junior Eurovision’s Opening Ceremony And Running Order Written by on December 6, 2022

ESC Insight’s Ben Robertson attended the Opening Ceremony for the 20th edition of Junior Eurovision in Republic Square, Yerevan. What did he think of the grandiose Opening Ceremony and the ramifications of the running order for Sunday’s show the EBU have revealed. Read on. 

Broadcaster Hamlet Arakelyan set the stage perfectly at the start of the Opening Ceremony for the 2022 Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

“For the first time in the history of the twenty year old Junior Eurovision, the Opening Ceremony is taking place not in a traditional and formal format but in the main square of the hosting country before thousands of guests.”

While the above statement is true, it does no justice for the scale of the event that I witnessed this Monday evening.

This main square, Republic Square, is the main traffic intersection within the circular confines of Yerevan’s downtown district. Locals told me it was rare to have a event worthy of closing off these precious streets to traffic. Built at the square’s focal point is a huge Disneyland-esque fairytale kingdom with castle frontage, miniature ice rinks and all the festive props you would ever need. And it’s huge – holding its own to even the monolithic buildings surrounding this meeting spot of the Armenian nation. Within the building lies a slender ribbon running up its centre as a red carpet, guiding the acts up the steps to enter the venue for their formal part of the Opening Ceremony behind the castle walls.

I’ve been to many Eurovision villages in my time. The scale of this event, with its big screens, elaborate staging and police presence comfortably in the hundreds, is if anything bigger than what the Contest in May gets on the ground. When Hamlet claims there would be “thousands of guests” his script was far too passive. There were comfortably tens of thousands milling around within the police cordon running the security checks. I’ve barely been to a Eurovision quite like it, never mind Junior.

The stunning musical act which appeared during the 2022 Junior Eurovision Opening Ceremony (Photo: Corinne Cumming, EBU)

What was most staggering though wasn’t the size and scale but also the clear extravaganza on display that blasted past anything from a previous Junior Eurovision. Take for example the firework display of a magnitude that all but the biggest cities on the globe would have been mighty satisfied to see in the New Year. How about the previous winners invited to the Contest – 11 out of 19 will be turning up we were told – and most of them got to perform their Junior Eurovision numbers to the crowd this relatively mild December evening. Such effort is above and beyond any expectations that the Contest has ever had. Link to this as well a glorious turning on of the Christmas lights and here you had a party for all from age 3 to 93. The diehard JESC fans could sing along (of which a decent chunk of locals were able to do) at the front while families could mill around the back, grab food and enjoy the ambience of the biggest celebration this country has had for a long time.

I’m quite convinced a fair whack of that record breaking 13 million Euro budget for Junior Eurovision was spent on this incomprehensibly magnificent opening.

The highlights for the Junior Eurovision fan are ultimately going to be those performances of Junior Eurovision winners. Many of these acts are now adults pursuing dreams within or not within the music industry. That so many of them were willing to turn back time and rekindle their childhood memories is a wonderful thing to see. Extra kudos must go to the three person Bzikebi group for performing their imaginary language ‘Bzzz’ which won in 2008.

What a spectacle this show was which whets the appetite for the level of production we may see the rest of this week.

To The Orders Of Running

Part of the Opening Ceremony is also the running order draw for Junior Eurovision itself. The draw was held behind the fairytale castle in the National Gallery of Armenia in-front of all the delegations.

At Junior Eurovision there are three draws made. Firstly the running order of the host country is selected. After that one of the remaining fifteen nations is selected to open the show, and then a draw is made for the country that will perform last. All other positions in the running order are determined by the producers. The draw resulted in The Netherlands opening the show, Ukraine closing the show, with Armenia slotting in just before them in position number 15.

The running order for Junior Eurovision 2022 (Picture Source, EBU)

We note the power of the random draw to award the uptempo ‘La Festa’ the honour of opening the show. This is a good number when considering conventional show openers, with the Dutch National Final proving this song has the ability to get the audience on their feet clapping and cheering along. The production team can be happy about that.

We also note that the Polish team have been drawn second in the running order. This is despite drawing 2nd last year with ‘Somebody’ and coming within six points of victory. Now my recent thinking about drawing 2nd in the running order is that a slot now often given to acts that the EBU believe can ‘win’ in other ways. Poland is the nation that has the biggest viewership for Junior Eurovision by a distance and as such via online voting we anticipate most votes come from Poland, and Poland can therefore benefit from that huge bloc. In short Poland will find Junior Eurovision success regardless of running order position which makes it a perfect candidate for 2nd in the running order to continue this trend. Doing so will slowly break the stigma about the negative effects of being drawn number two.

However, knowing as we do that the stigma of being drawn 2nd still exists within our competition, would it be wise to add extra random draws for the songs drawn second and second-to-last in the future?

I also see plenty of opportunities where, at least on paper, songs in a similar sonic space exist side-by-side. Georgia and Ireland are good examples, as would be Spain-United Kingdom, Malta-Italy and even Portugal-Serbia. Yes these are different genres from each other but with similar tempos and potential song presentation styles (so much we can only as of now speculate, although Eurovoix have collated some news already at this early stage) comparing songs back-to-back can happen for the audience more than random may produce. This comparison is a good thing but only if you believe your entry is competitively the best to sound more impressive than others around them. It will be interesting to see these mini battles play out.

Remember though that the impact of running order should be less in this show, where voting is open before the show as well as during it.

Ukraine To End The Show

But we have to end with the story of Ukraine, the landslide winner of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, which is now set to bookend Junior Eurovision 2022. Not only that but Ukraine are set to perform directly after the host nation.

That host nation entry ‘DANCE!’ is a floor-filling, crowd-pleasing, energy-lifting spectacle that undoubtedly is going to show this country at its most slickest and uniting. The cheers at the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concerts Complex I am certain will shake the buildings concrete exterior in ways it likely hasn’t done of a generation. Now I don’t know how big Junior Eurovision normally is here, but half-time World Cup programming this week has featured build-up to the live show, Opening Ceremony and the full music video of this year’s Junior Eurovision entry. The host broadcaster is doing all in their power to make this number the nation’s song come Sunday.

So after you get this huge crescendo, this huge pulsing joy of nationalistic pride and joy beaming across Europe, then we transform to something completely different. Ukraine takes to the lion’s den with the lion letting out its most almighty roar.

There’s three points that this brings up. Despite the theory that running order should be less significant in Junior Eurovision, the statistics about running last in the Junior Eurovision running order are insanely strong. In the last six years of competition, the winner has sung in the show’s final slot three times out of the six shows. If Ukraine wasn’t being considered for the Junior Eurovision win before the draw was made, it has to be in contention from now onwards.

Last year’s Portuguese entry ‘O Rapaz’ is another great example of the drawn to sing last brigade. Young Simão was unfancied before the show and stormed to a top 3 in the public vote. This was the type of gentle and thought-provoking ending to a Eurovision show that worked so well but was unlikely to ever occur in the producer-led running era of bombastic endings.

Ukraine’s song this year takes thought-provoking to a whole new level.

Let’s discuss the song, one that is sending one huge message across the continent this Sunday. This song tells a story about the ongoing war with Russia, with 14-year-old Zlata Dziunka asking God “why my generation dying young in this war?”, yet resolving in a powerful conclusion that “we will be strong, we will be free, we will win.” For this message to be the final one to broadcast in competitive action is, accidental as it may be, a bold and powerful sentiment to transmit across the world.

This performance is also an interesting contrast to Armenia which will be on stage mere seconds before. That audience, filled with joy and unity suddenly has that illusion of happy times shattered by the biggest news story of the year. What does that do inside the arena? Does the volume level somehow find new highs in support, or does the bubble burst as the mood turns deathly serious?

This is where we note our final point. Armenia’s relationship with Ukraine, through their own tense relationships with Russia, Azerbaijan and beyond, is a geopolitical balancing act too deep for ESC Insight to fully delve into. Vladimir Putin was in Yerevan last month for a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a network of six post-Soviet states including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia. A broad comparison is to look at this bloc as the Russian-backed equivalent of NATO, especially as one of the key treaties of this group is as follows:

“If one of the participating states is subjected to aggression by any state or group of states, then it will be considered as aggression against all the states parties to this Treaty.”

Armenia’s relationship with this group has been high on its recent agenda, with Armenia’s President questioning this group’s effectiveness publicly in response to the escalation and expansion of the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory with Azerbaijan. As much as the Ukrainian war is dominating global media attention, Armenians are concerned that an escalation of conflict here could happen again. Add to that how thousands of Russians live in Armenia today after fleeing the potential to be drafted into conflict with Ukraine, or how the majority of flights departing Zvartnots Airport are heading to Russian cities, and you will only start to appreciate the layers upon layers of Armenia’s delicate global position in December 2022.

Flights departing from Zvartnots Airport on the morning of Tuesday 6th December

What does this complex relationship mean for those thirty seconds between ‘Dance!’ finishing and ‘Nezlamna (Unbreakable)’ starting? Who knows? The level of support that the Armenian public gives the Ukrainian act will be a fascinatingly revealing moment in steering the direction of future Armenian geopolitical policy.

And yes, I mean every word of that last absurd statement about a show as frivolous as Junior Eurovision should be. This Junior Eurovision cannot escape the political ramifications in a nation that has thrown the biggest budget of all time at this competition, desperate to show itself on the world stage to prove its legitimacy. Modern Armenia is hosting the show of a lifetime to make a statement to its people and to the wider world.

Let’s see what that statement will be with our 14-year-old Ukrainian takes to the stage.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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