Saturday, 1 December 2012

Nul points



Worrying news for the future of the Eurovision Song Contest. Today Portugal, Poland, Cyprus and Greece have announced that their current economic problems mean they will not participate in 2013.

No less an icon than Nana Mouskouri, who represented Luxembourg in 1963 (because at that stage Greece did not take part - television was not yet widespread in her home country), commented: "It's a great shame, very sad. I know the world progresses, but the whole thing has just got so big, so expensive."

"The Eurovision contest has lost its heart,"
she says. "It's not about music or the singers anymore. It's more about staging a show. It's become far too much of too much, far too Las Vegas. If you ask me it has to start from the beginning, all over again."

As her agent Yannis Koutrakis, who has represented many of Greece's previous Eurovision entrants, wisely said: "You've got so many countries, like Azerbaijan and Georgia, that are not exactly European which are now participating. If countries at the heart of Europe leave then what is left? Is it really a European song contest?"

I have often wondered whether the ever-expanding Eurovision Song Contest would be sustainable in the long term. It was always slightly tenuous to include such countries as Israel (actually in Asia), and the fall of the Iron Curtain and inclusion of the former Eastern Bloc states (including warring Asian ones such as those in the Caucusus) doubled the potential entrants (and the potential for "bloc voting", but that's another subject) in one fell swoop.

Italy has already withdrawn altogether before, and could do so again, given today's announcements. Spain is struggling with its economy and could well be next. I hope the dour swines who are currently in charge of the UK government don't do anything so rash.

It's going to be an odd contest altogether, given the current state of gloom across Europe. Yet that is one of the main purposes of Eurovision, surely, to entertain and give a moment of unified escapism once a year? Having countries "sit it out" is a sad day for lovers of kitsch, camp, mindless entertainment in those states, and in Europe as a whole...

However (as always), that wry commentator Stuart Heritage in The Guardian gets it right:
Hang the glitterball at half-mast: Eurovision has lost its sparkle. Greece, Poland and Portugal have dropped out of next year's competition, which is sad beyond words. In their own way, each of these countries added something irreplaceable to the proceedings over the years.

Who could forget the moment in 2005 when Greece's Helena Paparizou triumphed with My Number One? Or the moment in 1979 when Portuguese girl group Doce came 13th with Bem Bom? Or when Poland failed to qualify for the Eurovision final at all for six of the last seven years? The knowledge that we'll be deprived of more such moments is almost too much to take.

In this time of frostbitten austerity, it's clear why these countries have chosen to back out of what's essentially a meaningless singing competition. It's just be nice if they were a little more honest about their reasons. "Portugal pulls out of Eurovision due to cost of winning" was the headline the Portugal News Online went with – glossing over the fact that Portugal has never been placed higher than sixth, and that the only realistic way for it to win Eurovision in 2013 would involve a systematic campaign of blackmail and poisoning. However, if Eurovision stands for one thing, it's optimism. And even this dark cloud has its silver linings. Despite its similarly precarious financial outlook, for instance, Ireland has still vowed to enter an act next year. This is good news because Ireland is a genuine Eurovision heavyweight, and also because it dramatically ups the chances of Jedward turning up again.

Fewer acts may not be such a bad thing. The Eurovision Song Contest is painfully long. At some point each year – usually about the two-hour mark, as the votes are being counted, the average Eurovision viewer will start to gibber and froth and develop tunnel vision until the concept of time itself becomes utterly meaningless. If Greece, Portugal and Poland aren't taking part, that could feasibly reduce the running time by up to 20 minutes – a lifetime in Eurovision terms.

Best of all, though, this increases the UK's chances. We've automatically done better than three countries next year. Maybe. Perhaps every other country in Europe will also succumb to austerity and pull out of Eurovision, too, and, without competition, that title would be ours for the taking. It's little comfort for the people of Greece, but frankly we need all the help we can get.
Here's Helena Paparizou to remind us of the type of thing we'll be missing...



The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden, on 18th May 2013.

6 comments:

  1. Damn, Portugal, Poland, and Greece: three of the countries that can most reliably be counted on to up the insanity quota. And that's what I want, not some Kylie Minogue wannabe. I NEED plate spinning dwarves playing the accordion with their feet while cheap fireworks explode.

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    1. Moldova is still in, so all is not lost on the tap-dancing-dwarves front... Jx

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  2. Rumours have been circulating that ABBA would show up in Malmo.

    Benny Andersson has been quoted as saying..."On ABBA reuniting for Eurovision in 2013… “No, we will not show up. We no longer exist. We have not been a group since 1982.”

    With regard to the UK entry for 2013..wait for it...Girls Aloud have been mentioned as representing us...I can't even bring myself to think about it!

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    1. Oh.

      My.

      God.

      Girls Aloud..?! Nooooooooooooooo!

      Jx

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  3. Sad news. Poland always has dreadful songs so I won't miss them (if only Iceland would drop out as well, we would already be in for a better show!). I do however usually love the songs from Greece and sometimes Cyprus, so I am quite sad that they won't be participating.

    I absolutely do not agree with any of the points Nana and her agent are making. I don't care at all about the Euro-aspect. For me, it is about the songs, the show and the campness of it all. If for example Korea or Australia were to enter, I would welcome them. I don't think the contest is too long at all either - having two semi finals and the final works out very well. During the 90s when pretty much every single song was either dreadful and/or a sleeeeeep inducing ballad, the show did indeed feel endless (I even stopped watching it for years). But now, with all kinds of songs, staged in different ways, I feel it does actually go by way too quickly.

    I hope that despite a few countries missing, we will have yet another great Eurovison next year. (Oh, and as far as I'm concerned, Italy and Denmark can just go ahead and drop out too - I usually hate the songs from these two countries).

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    1. Regardless who is in and who is out, I have absolutely no doubt that we will be celebrating Eurovision in exactly the same way as in previous years - with dressing-up, wigs, flags and copious quantities of booze!! Jx

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