The Real Meaning of Eurovision
by Paul Miazga
For those not in the know, the Eurovision Song Contest held on Saturday night in Helsinki represents far more than just a parade of mostly second-rate stars hoping to cash in on the glory of winning the fairly prestigious contest. I say only fairly prestigious since if it hadn’t been for legendary Swedish pop act ABBA winning in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” the contest would be far more about PR flops than triumphs – the contest has yet to give birth (other than ABBA) to a true star.
This year’s contest followed the mould of many previous ones. Regional voting blocks all but conspired to hand the win to one of their own. The best song of the night, in the truest spirit of the contest, was not the eventual winner from Serbia, but far more likely the entrants from France, Great Britain, Ukraine or Russia. Of the five countries from the former Yugoslavia able to vote in this year’s contest, each of them gave their maximum points to another country in that bunch and all but Serbia (whose voters could not vote for their own country as per contest rules) gave their maximum points to Serbia, virtually sealing its win.
The idea behind Eurovision is to show off pop talent, which includes showmanship and energy as much as good lyrics and a song’s underlying message. Veteran Ukrainian performer Verka Serdyuchka showed all of that, so I’m at least happy that he (she?) managed to take second place, while Russian all-girl group Serebro came in third, but the failure of the likes of Verka Serdyuchka to win says a lot about what the contest has become.
Less and less of a true song popularity contest, Eurovision is now more of a ham-fisted political game. The biggest example of that this year came when votes came in from Estonia – currently awash in political tension thanks to an increasingly acrimonious dispute with an overly sensitive Russia over the relocation of Soviet-era monuments. That country gave maximum points to … Russia. Russia? The Estonian presenter looked to be grinding her teeth in announcing the vote, which most likely reflected the whims of nationalistic ethnic Russians living in Estonia rather than a true poll for the best song. As for Russian voters, they sided with long-time ally Belarus and its lame entrant, paying only scant attention to Ukraine.
I agree with numerous critics online that the show should have a panel of judges deciding the winners, with fans participating to offer their votes as to which they preferred, their votes perhaps to be used formally only in the event of a tie among the judging panel. In any case, the contest needs to be rethought. Or scrapped. Whichever.
“Swedish super group ABBA remain one of the only Eurovision Song Contest winners to make it big.” (www.theage.com.au)
Sad day in Crimea
Reading the local news today, I read that vandals have caused major damage to 6th-Cenutry marble columns built by the Greeks at Khersones (near Sevastopol), knocking them over and breaking them. What a sad day this is for Ukraine and its meager efforts to promote tourism and preserve its centuries-long history.
It’s not hard to find examples of Ukrainian historical monuments, parks or other places of interest that are run down, hard-hit by vandals or denuded of their natural beauty. Why, just this weekend I was walking through Volodymyrsky Park above European Square and found that major sections of the stone footpath have been torn up or are simply falling apart, with no one around to do anything about it. The government of Lviv has received millions of dollars from UNESCO to give a facelift to the old city center. Wherever the money was sent, it didn’t reach its final destination.
With just over five years before Euro 2012 brings flocks of tourists to Ukraine, let’s hope the government can get its act together to protect and preserve this country’s unique historical and cultural beauty lest it fall victim to the kind of neglect and decay that characterized this place for much of the Soviet period.
“Sadly, the marble columns of the 1,400-year-old Greek settlement of Khersones in Crimea have been vandalized.” (http://home.ica.net)