Geopolitics and glitz as Ukraine set to win Eurovision
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Roma (AFP) – Kitsch, glitz and geopolitics – the Eurovision Song Contest is back in two weeks, with Russia ruled out and conflict-ridden Ukraine the overwhelming favorite to claim the crown.
“Stefania”, from the Ukrainian folk rap group Kalush Orchestra, has been tipped by bookmakers to win the cult competition, which will be held this year in the city of Turin, in northern Italy, on May 14.
Russia was blocked by the organizers the day after the invasion of its neighbor at the end of February.
And with lyrics such as “I will always find my way back, even if all the roads have been destroyed”, the bookmakers expect Ukraine to get a surge of public support.
A collation of major bookmakers on fan site Eurovisionworld has Kalush Orchestra among the favourites, with Italy second.
Mahmood and Blanco’s “Brividi” hopes to repeat their country’s success last year, when lederhosen-clad rockers Maneskin triumphed with “Zitti e Buoni” and rose to worldwide fame.
But with Eurovision, whose riotous pop, extravagant outfits and international relations attracted 180 million viewers across Europe last year, anything is possible.
“The public is showing strong support for Ukraine, but I don’t assume Ukraine is going to win,” said Eurovision historian and geopolitics expert Dean Vuletic.
“Bosnia and Croatia didn’t end very well in 1993” despite coming under attack, he told AFP, adding: “Although the Ukrainian entry was strong, it there are other high-quality entries”.
Roars of War
It is not the first time that the roars of war have been heard in the competition, launched by the European Broadcasting Union in 1956 with just seven countries.
Greece boycotted Eurovision after Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and tensions in the Balkans have often boiled over on stage.
In 2019 Ukraine pulled out of Eurovision after its lead singer quit in protest at rules banning tours of Russia, while last year Moscow’s ally Belarus, targeted by the EU sanctions, was barred in a move he described as politically motivated.
Benoit Blaszczyk, secretary of France-Eurofans, the French branch of the international fans’ association OGAE, said Ukraine would get the “vote of sympathy”, but not only.
“They have a good song,” he told AFP, adding that Ukraine – who regularly qualify for the grand final – “get attention every year, they are often ahead of their time “.
Votes are cast by music industry professionals and the public in each country – and in the interests of fairness, no one can vote for their own nation.
In the past, blocs of nations have often voted together, from the French-speaking countries of France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg, to the Nordic and more recent blocs of Central or Eastern Europe.
But “when you look at the studies, the voting blocks don’t determine the winners,” Vuletic said.
Nearly 4,400 OGAE-affiliated Eurovision fans have already voted for their favorite songs in Turin – and Ukraine came in 11th, with repeat offender Sweden leading the way, followed by Italy and Spain. Spain.
Ukrainian OGAE fans crowned Poland, a country that has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion, followed by Spain, France, Norway and Sweden.
Meanwhile, Russian fans gave the highest score – 12 points – to pro-Moscow Serbia, followed by Lithuania, Spain and Latvia.
In Serbia, Slobodan Todorovic, editor-in-chief of fan site Evrovizija.rs, insisted that every act be judged on its merits.
“A possible victory for Ukraine (for political reasons) would cast a shadow over Eurovision and the values it stands for – neutrality, independence from politics and respect and celebration of diversity,” he told AFP.
But even though they aren’t officially crowned Eurovision champions, many believe the Kalush Orchestra – who needed special permission to leave Ukraine – won just by being there.
“The fact that they can show up on stage, that they can leave the country and receive these messages of support is already a success,” Vuletic said.
© 2022 AFP