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Brian O'Reilly: Dodgy songs, sequins, camp dancers and political stand-offs ... it must be the Eurovision


Jedward at last last year's Eurovision. Photo: Getty Images

Jedward at last last year's Eurovision. Photo: Getty Images

Jedward at last last year's Eurovision. Photo: Getty Images

ARMENIA has announced it is to withdraw from the 2012 Eurovision song contest, which is due to be held in neighbouring Azerbaijan for the first time.

Despite the glitter encrusted sequins, high camp dance numbers and poorly pronounced English, the Eurovision has always had a more serious, political side behind the scenes.

The withdrawal doesn’t come as a surprise to many, Armenia technically still being at war with the host country. Eurovision organisers say they are “truly disappointed” with the decision.

It isn’t the first Eurovision controversy between the two countries. In 2009 contest organisers were forced to launch an investigation after the Azeri secret police interrogated two of their citizens, their crime was having voted for the Armenian song during the contest.

The 2009 televoting results show that 43 votes were registered for the Armenian song in Azerbaijan, and the Azeri secret police claimed they had the names and addresses of all the voters, having deemed their actions to be “unpatriotic” and somehow “a potential security risk”.

Former Soviet states relish the opportunity to take a swipe at mother Russia, despite the rules of the competition stating that political messages are forbidden.

In 2007 Ukrainian drag queen Verka Serduchka entered a song called ‘Lasha Tumbai’, which the Ukrainian delegation claimed was Mongolian for ‘whipped cream’, despite the fact no such expression exists. It also, coincidentally, bared huge phonetic resemblance to the phrase ‘Russia goodbye’ in Ukrainian.

The entry was submitted at a time of diplomatic wrangling between the two countries over oil and gas pipelines. Eventually the name of the entry was changed to ‘danzing’, after pressure from organisers, and went on to come second, with Russia one place behind in third.

The brief military conflict between Georgia and Russia in 2009 played out through Eurovision, as the small Caucus nation attempted to enter a song called ‘we don’t wanna put-in’.

The song was an unsubtle jibe at then Prime Minister Putin, made all the less subtle by the fact the contest was being held in Moscow for the first time. Georgian television refused to change the entry, and was eventually forced to withdraw.

Last year’s entry from Belarus featured a masterstroke of Stalinist propaganda, one the Soviet Union’s Politburo would be proud to call their own. The song was quite simply called ‘I love Belarus’.

The three minute ethno dance number detailed the reasons Belarus was worthy of holiday visit, for its ‘fields full of gold’ and ‘sun shining from above’, punctuated by backing singers frequently chanting ‘I love Belarus’. The song failed to progress from the semi final.

Belarusian President Lukashenko personally intervened to change this year’s entry, claiming there was voting irregularities in the selection of the original entrant, and instead decided that the second placed song would go to Baku.

Israel has caused controversies through its participation, and not just at a geographical ‘it’s not in Europe’ debate. Lebanon wishes to participate in the competition, and in 2005 went so far as to picking their entry. However when Lebanese television discovered they would have to broadcast the Israeli entry or be disqualified, they swiftly withdrew.

The Eurovision has always been a high camp, dramatic affair, providing a rare universally shared TV event in an increasingly fragmented television market.