When Donald Trump alluded on Saturday to some horrible event that had happened in Sweden the previous day, you can imagine the tweets in response. One response came from @sweden, the official Twitter account for the country. They stated that the only thing that happened on Friday was the competition to choose the Swedish entrant for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.
This is not a big deal in the United States, but I remember when we lived in England in the late 1970s, this was must-watch television. So here’s some stuff you may or may not know about this competition.
- This annual competition began in 1956, partly because Europeans felt the need for something fun that would pull them together after the devastation of World War II.
- The winner that was most successful after their win was ABBA, from Sweden. They won in 1974 for “Waterloo”. You can see their winning Eurovision performance here. That’s some happy music!
- The competition is not open to all European countries, but to all members of the European Broadcasting Union. This has changed over the last 60 years as some countries are created or are swallowed up by larger countries.
- The first Eurovision Song Contest included only seven countries. In 2016, 42 countries competed.
- For all my Lakenheath friends from England, you probably already know that Katrina and the Waves won for the United Kingdom in 1997, singing “Love Shine a Light“. For those of you not from Lakenheath, you probably know this band, who attended Lakenheath American High School, for the song “Walking on Sunshine“.
- The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland, and after that, the country that wins the competition becomes the host for the contest the next year. This can be used as an opportunity to promote their country as a tourist destination, but there have been times when the host country has declined due to the expense. In those cases, another host (usually the BBC in the United Kingdom) steps up to take over. In May of this year the competition will be held in Kyiv, Ukraine.
- There are lots of rules about everything from the number of artists allowed onstage to language requirements. But many of the rules change through the years, so you have to give them credit for flexibility due to growth and change.
- Voting for the winners has also changed. At the moment, the voting is split 50/50 between juries and voting by the public, either by phone or online. The problem with the public aspect is one of scale. Like our electoral college, where my California vote counts less than the vote of someone from Wyoming, the public vote from small countries outweighs the vote from much larger countries.
- Women have dominated, being a part of 50 of the 64 winning acts through 2016.
- Sometimes politics rears its ugly head. Certain blocs of countries may vote together and some countries may vote for or against another country based on whatever is happening at the time. Annoyed with your neighbor? Hurt them with music.
- Ireland has won the most contests, with seven.
Have you ever watched this contest? Can you listen to “Walking on Sunshine” without dancing even a little bit?