A different Eurovision

A different Eurovision
In Italy after more than 30 years, with a war in Europe and the Ukraine

already the protagonist and favorite: but politics has a lot to do with it

Between Tuesday May 10 and Saturday May 14 will be held in Turin the

Eurovision Song Contest, the most famous and popular music competition

in the world, in which about forty countries participate and that every year

attracts tens of millions of viewers around the world, especially in Europe

but also in some countries of other continents that over time have become

attached to the competition. This year’s edition will be held in Turin

because the last one, held in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, was won by the

Italian band Måneskin: by regulation, the winning country is required to

host the following year’s edition.

However, it will be a slightly different Eurovision from those we have seen

in recent years, as the first for thirty years to take place during a war in

Europe: in 1993 and 1994 it was fought in Bosnia and Herzegovina, today in

Ukraine due to the invasion of Russia. The Turin edition will also be the

first to return to near-normality after the coronavirus pandemic: in 2020

Eurovision was cancelled, while in 2021 the vaccination campaign had just

begun and the Dutch edition included scrupulous controls and a limited

presence. Finally, it will be the first Eurovision managed and organized by

RAI for more than thirty years: the last Italian edition was held in Turin in

1991, it was presented by Toto Cutugno and Gigliola Cinquetti and it was

quite a disaster.

The war in Ukraine had two main consequences on Eurovision. The first

was the expulsion of Russia from the competition, which came after an

initial hesitation on the part of the organizers, i.e. the European

Broadcasting Union (despite its name, it is not an organ of the European

Union). The second is an inevitable motion of sympathy and goodwill

towards the Ukrainian competitors: namely Kalush Orchestra, a trio that mixes hip hop with traditional melodies of Ukrainian folk music and brings a song entitled “Stefania”.

The song does not contain explicit references to the war – it is dedicated to

the mother of one of the members of the group – but Kalush Orchestra

anticipated that there will be many “surprises” and symbolism about the

“current situation” in their performance, scheduled for Tuesday’s semifinal.

All this, combined with the fact that “Stefania” has a rather catchy refrain,

makes Kalush Orchestra a strong favorite for the final victory. Both the

betting agencies and most of the insiders are certain of this. “I will do

everything so that our country will not only win the war, but also

Eurovision,” said one of the band members, Oleksandr Slobodianyk,


However, not everyone is convinced that Kalush Orchestra will actually win this year’s edition. “The public is showing great support for Ukraine, but I don’t think they will come first,” Dean Vuletic, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Vienna who is considered one of the world’s top Eurovision experts, told Agence-France Presse. “In 1993, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia participated in Eurovision but did not even finish in the first places,” despite the fact that the two countries were under attack by Serbia.

In recent years, however, Eurovision’s audiences and national juries have proven time and again that they can collectively interpret a certain spirit of the times. The 2013 edition was won by Austria’s Conchita Wurst, a drag queen and activist for the rights of the LGBT+ community, and in the following years a series of laws were passed across Europe that legalized gay marriage or civil unions. In the 2021 edition, the British contestant, singer James Newman, scored a total of zero points from both the national juries and the televote – something that had never happened since the implementation of the new voting rules and was related by many to the fact that just a few months earlier the UK had completed its exit from the European Union. The song, to be honest, was particularly forgettable.

It is plausible that this year in Italy Eurovision will be

noticed more than usual both for Mahmood and Blanco and for the fact that the three evenings will be held at the PalaOlimpico in
Turin, whose tickets sold out within a few minutes. The
Eurovision week will be an event with few precedents of attention
and curiosity, perhaps comparable only to the latest editions of
the Sanremo Festival.