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Steering the ship

27 February 2008 at 13:28 CET

The past days have been somewhat surreal. It started before the weekend, when media launched reports about "crisis meetings", "Reference Group conference calls" and "backup scenarios", after Belgrade hit the news because of a mass demonstration to object Kosovo's declaration of independence. If those reports were to believe, we at the EBU were all searching our desk drawers for a thick document called PLAN B, with a large, red stamp saying CLASSIFIED, providing a manual on how to move the contest to another location... 

Obviously, the tensions that came with the declaration of independence of Kosovo are to be taken serious. That is why everyone involved with the organization of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest carefully follows the news and stays in close touch with Host Broadcaster RTS. But, as the EBU's Bjørn Erichsen and Svante Stockselius stated firmly after the widely spread speculations, the preparations for the upcoming contest are going ahead in Belgrade. As it seems, the situation has somewhat stabilized, fortunately. Looking at the history of the contest, it's not the first time a host country is subject to tension and it probably won't be the last time either. But somehow, it always worked out in the end. Maybe it's the magic of the contest, but let's not challenge destiny in this matter... 

After Friday's somewhat clouded sky had been cleared, Saturday was obviously all about the eight national finals that were taking place across Europe. It was an exciting night, both for the fans as well as for our team, full of expected and unexpected winners, sharp quotes, a wide range of music genres and opinions. It is great to see how both fans ánd the regular TV viewers re-discover, and I think I can speak on behalf of the whole team that we are extremely proud and honoured with that!

I somehow don't understand some of the fuzz that is being made in the fan scene since Super Saturday. Across Europe, heated discussions were taking place about alledged plagiarism, "unfair winners" and most of all, the question wether Dustin the Turkey is a relieve or a disgrace for the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, I agree that there is an increasing amount of gimmick acts are taking place in the contest. On the other hand, I am not sure if we are dealing with something new here... The conductor of ABBA's Waterloo was dressed as Napoleon and a bunch of Austrians had masks on the backs of their head - that was in the seventies! In the nineties, we had professional freak Guildo Horn representing Germany, Paul Oscar and his leather-decorated act and so on. In 2000, German entertainment personality Stefan Raab took part and Dutch Linda Wagemakers came on stage in a huge dress - by fans often referred to as 'The Tent'. The 2003 contest featured the hilareous Alf Poier from Austria. 

That Ireland is now being represented by a hand puppet called Dustin the Turkey might be controversial or even - I quote - "a disgrace for the professional singers who take part in the contest", but it is a logic follow-up of what's happening in the charts across Europe, each now and then featuring a gimmick as well. "If Dustin the Turkey is a popular 'personality' in Ireland, why not represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest?" one could say. After all, isn't it beautiful that in the end you can vote, and decide to either reward, or to punish Ireland for this controversial decision... Time will tell!