Culture House Daily

The Eurovision Song Contest is starting – and for once, Britain is in with a chance

4 May 2014

There are those to whom the word ‘volare’ means nothing. But for  us Eurovision enthusiasts, it’s all starting with the opening ceremony tonight. Two semi-finals this week, then the big one on Saturday. It’s transmitting live in China, New Zealand and Canada this year – making Eurovision the most-watched non-sporting television event on the planet.

The annual, spectacular clash of nations, cultures and politics is also becoming a major betting event. A friend of mine in Sweden (where Eurovision is not seen as a massive gay pride festival) usually makes a killing getting it right. To do so requires pretty good knowledge of music, European politics, trends in trading relationships, and popular (as opposed to governmental) opinion. And, of course, to judge trends better than bookmakers. This is getting harder, as bookies become more sophisticated.

The semi finals won’t matter to Britain. The BBC pays so much money to Eurovision that we’re guaranteed a place in the final. Nor does the BBC bother to run a contest to find a popular song – instead, its musical politburo decides. The BBC’s institutional snobbery and xenophobia has, hitherto, ensured the UK entry is so bad as to be an almost passive-aggressive insult to an entire continent. But this year, they’ve worked a bit harder and found a singer-songwriter: Molly Smitten-Downes, who has tried to game Eurovision formula with a varied-tempo, anthem-style number, ‘Children of the Universe’. And she’s actually in with a chance at 8/1. The others are below, with my thoughts-

1. Armenia – 13/8. The favourites, and look at the production values of the video. The Armenian broadcasters, unlike the BBC, have understood that the video makes a difference because so many voters make up their minds before the final. This tiny country is obviously out to win the whole contest, and the audacity could be self-fulfilling.