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Eurovision Turns 60

By Aldric Chuah:

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest. For the first time Australia was permitted to compete in the contest. Our representative Guy Sebastian pulled an amazing performance – he was quite the guy ! This of course follows up from our guest appearance at last year’s Eurovision when Jessica Mauboy sang “A Sea of Flags”. I was so elated to see Guy up on stage because he showcased the pinnacle of Australian talent and showed the Europeans that we are always striving to punch well above our weight.

Since 1983 SBS has broadcast the wonders and delight of Eurovision to our television screens. We were joined by Sam Pang and Julia Zemiro in 2009. We have always responded with unbridled enthusiasm and unwavering support. Amongst the sea of Austrians and Brits there was our flag and the crowd of Aussies cheering Guy on.

From it’s humble beginnings in 1956 it now broadcasts to over 30 different countries including Australia. It’s purpose was to reunite a war-torn Europe and to bring together countries in the midst of the Cold War. Unfortunately those in the Soviet Bloc were unable to partake but that didn’t stop them from creating their own contest; Intervision. Ironically the contest began life just as the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961.

The voting system was rather peculiar. Private telephones were not common in the Eastern Bloc so viewers would be asked to turn on their lights if they liked the song and to switch them off when they did not. The sudden spike on the electrical network would then be recorded, and points assigned accordingly to the contestant. It ended life in 1980 but as of 2015 will once again be revived; no doubt with a more modern form of voting !

Notable here is that despite the fear and hostility of the Cold War/nuclear armageddon, here were ordinary citizens of the Eastern Bloc immersing themselves in a song contest. Despite the propaganda of the time, Soviets weren’t that different to their Western counterparts. They worried about their finances, career advancements. They fell in love, they got sick. That a separate contest had to be created to rival Eurovision signified how much of an influence it had on people’s lives – Eurovision was soft power against the Iron Curtain.

Today over 40 countries compete in the contest. Perhaps the most well known act to ever come out of Eurovision is ABBA. When ABBA arrived in Australia in 1977 the people went absolutely wild. Stadiums from Sydney to Adelaide were completely filled, with the additional crowd listening outside. Fernando released in 1975 topped the Australian charts and stayed there for 14 weeks. It retains its status as the single spending the most weeks at no. 1.

Although not eligible to compete, Australians have competed in the contest before, albeit representing different countries. Oliver Newton John entered the contest in 1974 representing Great Britain but lost to ABBA’s “Waterloo”. Second time round Johnny Logan entered the contest in 1980 representing Ireland and won with “What’s Another Year”. He emulated his success again in 1987. He retains the record as the only performer to have won the contest twice.

With Guy Sebastian Australia had another chance. Guy managed to clinch fifth place which is quite an impressive feat ! We are all proud that Guy was able to represent Australia and no doubt Guy had and amazing time on stage. There he was, blending in with both the flamboyant dance routines and the questionable dance routines.

To Guy we award you douze points !