May 16, 2011 / 10:52 AM / 8 years ago

Eurovision head says global contest a "challenge"

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - The Eurovision Song Contest has become so popular around the globe that there may be scope one day for a Worldvision Song Contest, executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand told Reuters.

Ell and Nikki of Azerbaijan celebrate after being awarded with the trophy by Lena (L) of Germany after winning the Eurovision Song Contest final in Duesseldorf, May 14, 2011. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The Norwegian director of the 56-year-old contest, watched this year from Germany by more than 125 million people in 55 countries around the world, said Eurovision manages to bring Europe together in a way similar to the Euro soccer tournament.

“This is the one moment that all of Europe shares — across Europe, people watch and enjoy the same exact TV program,” Sand said in Duesseldorf, where Azerbaijan won this year’s contest early on Sunday morning. “It’s a special moment.”

He said the Euro soccer tournament also manages to unite Europe in front of their television sets but is held only once every four years — making it less of a logistical challenge for broadcasters and organizers than running an annual competition.

There is also a World Cup soccer tournament every four years and the question was raised in Duesseldorf: what about holding a “Worldvision Song Contest?”

“Sure there’s a World Cup,” Sand said when asked about that in his temporary office in the Duesseldorf arena, a soccer stadium that was temporarily turned into a giant indoor TV studio. “A ‘Worldvision Song Contest’ would be great if we could do it. But it’s not in the immediate plans.

“It’s a huge logistics operation and you only have one year to prepare it,” added Sand, who was appointed to run the European Broadcasting Union’s contest in January.

“If we think out of the box I’m sure we could be able to put up something like that. But that’s quite a challenge.”

Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landrut, who won last year’s Eurovision Song Contest held in Oslo and came 10th in this year’s contest watched by a record live audience of 36,000, floated the idea of a Worldvision contest at a news conference on Friday.

“Maybe the rest of the world can watch it and do something like we do, can do a ‘Worldvision’,” the 19-year-old high school student said in a passing remark at the end of her news conference. “All countries just having fun.”


Sand, the executive producer, said this year’s Eurovision Song Contest gave Europe a brief and badly needed break from its crisis over debt and deteriorating solidarity.

This year’s light-hearted competition featured artists from 43 nations in a good-natured battle for points might not have been a barometer for high culture or good taste.

But he said the contest, won by Azeri duo Ell/Nikki singing a love song in English written by a Swedish composer, might be just the tonic Europe needs at a time when a sovereign debt crisis threatens to undo decades of post-war integration.

“This shows that we can stick together — at least for entertainment and music,” Sand added. “Europe will stay together and be united even though it’s in difficult times right now. This is definitely something that shows that Europe is united.”

Although the Eurovision Song Contest might be derided as a campish monument to mediocrity and kitsch in some countries, it is for others an eagerly awaited celebration of Europe’s diverse cultures and languages.

Part of the contest’s charm is its unpredictability. Any nation can win. It levels the playing field, with small nations like Azerbaijan having the same voting clout and chance to win as Germany or the United Kingdom, the home of some of the greatest pop acts in musical history.

Indeed both Greece and Ireland — small and highly indebted nations at the heart of the euro zone crisis that has battered the bloc’s common currency and confidence — finished ahead of euro zone paymaster Germany and economic powerhouse France in voting by TV viewers and national juries in all 43 countries.

It did not go unnoticed that Germany awarded some of its top scores to Greece (10 points) and Ireland (8 points) even though its public and media has complained about and resisted European efforts to prop up the finances of the two struggling nations.

That a syrupy love song about a love-struck couple performed by an Azeri duo captured the imagination — and 221 points — from voters across Europe could also reflect a revival, if only temporary, of solidarity on the shaken continent.

Slideshow (11 Images)

“We want to bring Europe together with our song,” Azeri singer Eldar Gasimov said when asked if there was a message from Europe in their win. He said they will make French, Spanish and German versions of their winning song “Running scared.”

The extravaganza, conceived by the European Broadcasting Union in 1956, was beamed to nations from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea as well as to countries around the world that were not even competing such as Australia, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States.

It has been a launching pad for Swedish pop group Abba, who won in 1974 with “Waterloo,” and Celine Dion, who took top honors in 1988 for Switzerland.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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