May 25th, 2012
11:36 AM GMT
London (CNN) – Much of the beleaguered eurozone will grind to a halt Saturday for the Eurovision Song Contest, that continent-wide musical tussle of campness and political bickering watched by 120 million-plus TV viewers worldwide, which has launched Abba and Celine Dion among others.
But this year, one suspects, certain European countries may be quietly relieved if their own acts come an honourable second – or even draw the dreaded nul points.
Winning the annual Eurovision comes at an eyewatering cost: the victorious act determines the venue for the following year, with much of the financial hit is taken by the host broadcaster. On Saturday it’s the turn of Azerbaijan – criticized for its human rights record – after Ell and Nikki proved victorious in Germany 12 months ago.
When times are good, Eurovision is an excuse to throw a party for the rest of the Europe. But during a downturn, you might be tempted to draw the drapes, ignore the neighbors and pretend you’re not in.
So who might win on Saturday – and be stung for costs in 2013? The market - or rather the bookies - have already rated this year’s contenders. Sweden is currently tipped as favorite - but several of the eurozone’s fragile economies make the top 15, including Italy (third favourite), Ireland (sixth), Spain (10th) and Greece (13th). Portugal can only be relieved it is a distinct outsider amid the field of 35.
One has to feel especially sorry for Italy. This is, after all, the country which abandoned its multi-billion bid for the 2020 Olympics earlier this year on the grounds that it would be “irresponsible” under its current economic circumstances.
Eurovision is hardly going to make an already flailing economy sink with a boom-banga-bang (to quote a UK entry from 1969). But if you were a beleaguered eurozone nation, would you want to juggle a multi-million singathon amid the daily grind of austerity measures, public strikes and repeated meetings with grave-looking delegations from bits of Europe faring slightly better than yourself?
Possibly the best solution, as with most European institutions, would be to locate Eurovision permanently in Brussels. Maybe it could be compered by a bespectacled technocrat appointed by the European Central Bank, complete with songs about fiscal responsibility and CG backdrops of shimmering pre-euro currencies.
Less random. Less fun. But more in keeping with today’s times.
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