The Eurovision Song Contest never fails to surprise the viewer each year, with its combination of complete seriousness for some countries and genuine laissez-faire by others, yet most will have been taken by complete surprise to hear of their latest coup. It seems that the annual competition to determine a winning song from across the vast array of European countries, has now decided to open its doors to Australia as well!
This year's event finale for the 60th edition is to be held in Vienna on May 23rd and will include an entry from an as of yet unknown artist or artists from Down Under, as confirmed in the last few days by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The Aussie in Austria entry will join the 39 other countries competing in the final, having been fast-tracked through qualifying straight into the decider itself. It is said to be a one-off invitation and opportunity to compete in front of an estimated global television audience of around 195 million.
There has already been speculation about who will be chosen to represent Australia, with the obvious favourite being Kylie Minogue, perhaps in partnership with her sister Dannii. Other names suggested include Tina Arena and Delta Goodrem. How well they would be supported by the various 'blocs' that seem to vote for each other each year, is unknown. They have no real allegiances nor 'enemies' as such, which could work both ways when it comes to the often controversial voting patterns that emerge.
Despite some Aussies taking to Twitter to express their bewilderment at the announcement, others have treated the news with typical Aussie wit, suggesting that there has simply been a mix-up between Austria and Australia because of the host venue this time.
The Aussies that represent their country will not be the first people from their shores to do so though, as both Gina G ('Ooh Aah..Just a Little Bit') and Olyvia Newton-John (although she was actually born in Cambridge) have previously represented the UK. Johnny Logan represented Ireland but is partly Australian also.
There is mass interest in the event each year Down Under already, as the broadcaster SBS have screened the show for more than thirty years, and it remains a major television event for them. Last year over ten per cent of the Australian population tuned in to the show over the full weekend, a figure of around 2.7 million in total. With a home entrant to cheer on and support, they would expect even bigger viewing figures this year. The University of Melbourne illustrates the Aussies' fascination by having their "Eurovisions" course, to demonstrate to students a part of what Europe encompasses.
As in other countries across Europe (including the UK), the Aussies often hold their own parties when the show is on and they are big fans of former winners Abba. Bjorn Again are recognised as probably the best Abba tribute group in the world.
The competition made its broadcasting debut in 1956 and since then has had 62 winners, the seemingly unusual total being explained by the fact that there were in fact four joint-winning acts in 1969. Eurovision has helped to launch the successful careers of a host of well-known stars down the years (as well as sinking one of two 'promising' fledgling entertainers in equal measure), such as Abba, Celine Dion, Bucks Fizz and two-time winner Logan, to name but a few. It has never been far from controversy in recent years, with last year's successful act from Austria being the bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst.
One wonders if this marks the end of Eurovision as it has been known up to now, with a general move to make the event truly global, with perhaps entries being allowed from other continents across the world in the not too distant future. Although the distances between the various countries can be huge, modern travel and technology can allow most countries to be hooked up, and Australia will of course have a vote on the big day via a link to their voting headquarters. Already, Israel, Morocco and Azerbaijan are allowed to compete via a certain flexibility in the eligibility criteria. Australia are indeed already members of the European Broadcasting Union, so perhaps the dispensation to actually compete is not all that 'special' after all. #Music