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An Instant Guide to the Eurovision Final

So, this is it. 24 countries will be battling it out tonight for the Eurovision trophy. This is a glass model of an old-fashioned microphone, made by top Swedish designer Kjell Engman – who was a musician before going into design. It has led a hard life. Winner Alexander Rybak managed to break it in 2009, and it was damaged again in transit to Denmark after that country’s win in 2013.

The show begins at 8pm UK time, though there will be some stuff before the first act, We are Domi from the Czech Republic go on stage.

That is not the best place in the running order to sing, but is better than second, which seems to have a jinx on it. This year, Romania are on second. Don’t expect next year’s competition to be in Bucharest (tradition has it that the winner hosts the next year’s contest).

Statistician Adrian Kavanagh produced the following graph to show which ‘slots’ are best

Here’s a link for the Running Order:

Once the songs are done, then it’s time for the interval act, where the host nation gets a chance to show off its creativity. Riverdance started life as a Eurovision Interval Act (in 1994). In 1978, France treated Eurovision audiences to Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli. When Britain hosted the contest in 1974, the interval act was the Wombles.

Once the votes are in, they are announced country by country (all participants countries get to vote, even ones knocked out in the semis). This is almost always done in English, except by France. There are two sets of votes, one by a set of music industry professionals, the other by the public via a phone-in.

The juries have to judge according to four criteria:

  • vocal capacity

  • the performance on stage

  • the composition and originality of the song

  • the overall impression by the act

I don’t know precisely what they mean by ‘vocal capacity’, but the effect seems to be that juries vote for songs with a lot of bellowing in (though they loved Salvador Sobral in 2017).

The jury votes are announced first, country by country. “And our twelve points go to...”

The public votes are then added in. We don’t go back to the announcers again, but the public votes are simply totted up and announced in reverse order as the table stands at the end of the jury voting. So if country x gets nul points from the juries, its public vote will be announced first. Embarrassing, if you get nul points from the public, either, which is what happened to the UK last year (but won’t be this time! Hooray!!!)

This system looks overcomplicated, but it actually keeps the tension going to the very end of the contest. (In the old days, runaway winners could mean that the results announcements became pretty dull after a few ‘douze points’.)

After the microphone is awarded, the winner does a reprise... Then, horror of horrors for the true fan, it’s all over for another year. Not till November will countries begin their selection processes (Estonia are often first out the block), and there will also be a Junior Eurovision in December. Till then, a long arid summer awaits...


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