Eurovision Song Contest…Light Your Fire...and the winner is…..
Every year, the Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast by the European Broadcasting Union all over Europe. Each country submits an original song to be performed by an artist or artists from the respective country. A jury of specialists, like American Idol, rates the songs to be sent on to the Grand Finale, which then is voted on by viewers all over Europe, and as far away as Azerbaijan. Each year the huge television production is held in the country of the previous year’s winner. And so it was, with great pride after winning the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, that Azerbaijan, known as the Land of Fire, hosted this year’s competition last weekend, with the theme and motto--Light Your Fire. An elaborate new hall—the crystal hall palace in Baku—was built just for this event. This Eurovision television spectacular was already a big event during the years that Bill and I lived in Germany in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and I remember well watching the shows every year to see which country would win—it brings pride and jubilation to the winning country, and after winning last year’s competition, throngs stormed the streets of Baku celebrating, as though they had just won the World Cup!
Because it must be shown during prime time in Europe, the semi-finals and the Grand Finale couldn’t start until midnight local time here in Azerbaijan. But watch we must! And so we had our own little PCV viewing party at the home of good friend of all Peace Corps Volunteers, Gulnaz.
Some chose to boycott the Song Contest in Azerbaijan, and others used the event to point out political issues that plague Azerbaijan’s reputation on the world stage. Armenia, with a decades-long dispute over contested territory which they now occupy and on-going war with Azerbaijan, did not send an entry nor attend. Other human rights organizations hoped to draw attention to the civil and human rights violations of a country known for imprisoning hundreds of journalists who oppose government policies and a country accused by others of corruption throughout many facets of society. On international rankings of corruption and human rights violations, Azerbaijan scores poorly relative to the rest of the world, and especially relative to the rest of Europe. Moreover, located in a strategically important part of the world, Azerbaijan reportedly thwarted numerous terrorists plots, which were designed to disrupt the Eurovision events.
But none of that seemed to dampen this year’s celebration which turned out to be quite a Baku party. The city polished up its attractive and historic core, and put on the glitz and glamour that would rival any pop-culture show anywhere in the world. And the winner—and host of next year’s competition…Sweden! But I must admit, my favorites, the ones that I was rooting for, were—the pleasant German entry, the local favorite—Azerbaijan, the singing babushkas from Russia (came in 2nd place), and the fancy feet of the group from Malta…ah, well…
Have a view:
Don't miss the singing Babuskas enticing everyone with "Party for Everybody":