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  • Matilda Thomann Studholme

The Politics of Eurovision

In 1956, the first Eurovision competition began. Eurovision is an annual singing contest between the countries of Europe; plus, the weird addition of Australia, because they loved the competition so much, they first joined in 2015. North Africa and Morrocco joined in 1980 and a few other ‘non’ European countries joined too. At the concert, there is singing, dancing and most importantly an extravagant show. One of the stated aims of the contest is to not be political.

Eurovision could be seen as non-political when looking at the lengths the organizers of Eurovision go to, to make sure it stays apolitical. An example of this would be when the organizers would not let the song, “We Don’t Wanna Put In,” because they considered you could infer ‘Put In’ was a reference to the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Whether it was a positive thing or not, to ban Georgia’s entry in 2009, it was a step in the less political direction.

Inevitably, behind the scenes, and woven into the very fabric of judging and voting, there is politics. Decisions are made not just on dance and song, but also against the backdrop of politics, war, neighbourliness, and trading alliance.

As a recent example, last year’s contest was won by Ukraine, with Sam Ryder of the United Kingdom winning the judge’s vote. The people of Europe have felt deep sympathy towards the Ukrainian people whose lives have been torn apart by the Russian attacks.

It was not the first time Ukraine had featured prominently in Eurovision. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. In 2016, Ukraine won the Eurovision competition.

Another example of politics is when Ping-Pong, the Israel’s contestants, finished their song “Be Happy” by pulling out the Syrian flag and the Israeli flag, and calling for peace. Even the people in Israel did not know about this plan. The Israeli broadcasting authority disowned the entry publicly. It was later revealed that two of the band members had in fact been journalists. Later, they admitted that their contribution to the European song contest was intended to be a joke, despite beating 83 countries with their ridiculously good song, and making a politic point for peace.

Eurovision has always been something political and even the fact that it was founded as apolitical, made it political. It was founded as a peace preserving singing competition, some call it the Olympics of singing. Its actual origin was political. After World War II, political leaders decided that a singing competition would be a post-war way to build bridges and peace between neighbours. It is noteworthy that it was the stepping stone for the founding of the “EBU” (European Broadcasting service). Since then, it has been, to the average watcher, an entertaining concert to watch on a quiet evening.

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