The 1950’s were a time of rebuild in Europe. War-torn countries and their people were desperate for a future in which there would be no tension, no fighting, no wars. The European Broadcasting Union, based in Switzerland, decided to look for ways in the form of an entertainment program that could bring some unity and feelings of friendship. This concept eventually became a contest of songs, held for the first time on May 24 1956 under the name Eurovision Grand Prix, and broadcasted live and simultaneously in several European countries which, in this pre-satellite era, was quite an achievement already.
Yesterday evening a rough 125 million of people, not only in Europe but even far beyond its borders, enjoyed the 58th edition of the ambitious event. Obviously lots have changed since the beginning. After the political opening of the East, it has been decided that all countries located on the European continent are allowed to participate, not only those who are a member of the European Union. Where there were first 7 countries to participate, yesterday the contest event welcomes 39 countries in its competition. Which is still a few compared to the total of 51 countries that have at least participated once. Since the beginning the festival has been criticized for both musical content and political or geographic voting. And its true that sometimes the level of performance isn’t as high as one would expect, and that for years, and especially after the entry of many eastern European countries, there seems to be a very predictable voting system that includes friendly wink to neighboring countries. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. The Eurovison provides every year for an evening of entertainment and an innocent platform where countries can vent their disagreements in song and music instead of political threats. Yesterday Swedish Malmö had the honor to host the event, after the country won the contest last year. Sweden is the festivals most successful participant with many top ten finalists and 5 victories, Abba’s Waterloo being the first on in 1974. This year it was Denmark who left eh contest a victor, bringing home the trophy for the 3rd time in the history of Denmark’s participation.
Though the shows are getting bigger every year, the Eurovision Song Contest really isn’t such a big deal. The ambition of a simultaneous live broadcasting has moved far to the background thanks to satellite connections, and with a few exceptions here and there, there really aren’t any political issues that need to be ironed out by a show of entertainment. But still the festival has a strong symbolic meaning, with the host country giving it a different theme each year. Much in the tradition of the Olympics, the Eurovision always stand in the light of unity and friendship, and for that reason alone it is still a wonderful initiative. This years theme was We Are One, visualized by colorful butterflies that introduced each country in its own colors but all came together in one united image. And even though the current song contest knows many adversaries, I believe that it still serves its purpose. One can only hope that it will continue doing what it does so well, and possibly grow into a world festival in which all nations can sing and dance and forget their differences. Even if it is only one time by year. –BM-
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