It will be an emotional and symbolic night on Saturday as Ukraine battles to take home the Eurovision 2022 trophy
It’s the one week of the year when Europeans band together to sing, laugh and even cringe – it’s the Eurovision Song Contest.
The event, now in its 66th edition, is back and bigger than ever.
This year, however, feels a little different, with a touch of emotional heaviness.
Nearly 200 million people will watch as Ukraine takes the stage to represent itself just two and a half months after Russian tanks crossed the eastern border.
Whether you like the Kalush Orchestra’s traditional folk-inspired rap song or not, there’s no doubt it’ll resonate with the voting masses.
With Europe’s largest party – and platform – a victory in Ukraine could send a message of European solidarity to Putin and Russia.
But is it that easy for Ukraine to win the heart of the public?
NationalWorld spoke to Dr. Eurovision Paul Jordan on Ukraine’s chances this year, the symbolism of the competition and why the 2022 competition will be the most political affair yet.
What does Eurovision mean for Europe?
Since its inception in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest has been one of the largest non-sporting events in the world, averaging around 180 million viewers per year in modern times.
“It’s totally unique television and I think that’s why Europe loves it so much,” says Paul.
“You love it, you hate it or you love to hate it – but everyone is watching. It brings Europe together for one night a year.
“Especially after the time we’ve all been through over the past few years, I think we need something like Eurovision.”
The competition made a comeback last year after the 2020 event was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When it came back in 2021 everyone was looking for a bit of escapism and it was really a joy. In the midst of things like Brexit, I think that makes us feel like we’re with other countries.”
It is this coming together of different nationalities, languages and cultures that is so often celebrated at Eurovision, often amid turmoil across the continent.
“You have countries that don’t even have diplomatic relations. Armenia and Azerbaijan – they hate each other. You are at war. And yet for this night, one night a year, they put aside those differences and share this stage.
“It is very necessary. And obviously all eyes are on Ukraine this year. I think it’s going to be very interesting and probably very emotional as well.”
Is Ukraine a clear winner?
Ukraine last won the competition in 2016, with Jamala taking the top spot after impressing European audiences.
Now the beleaguered country will have the sympathies of Europe on its side heading into the final, with huge public support expected.
“I think they’re going to win the public vote, there’s no doubt about that,” explains Paul.
“Ukraine was able to participate and the guys got special permission to actually leave the country because they actually fought. The men are not allowed to leave the country.
“So I think there’s going to be an emotional element involved with that.”
But Eurovision winners are not built on public votes alone. The performers must also impress expert juries from each country, with the jury and televoting giving equal weight to the results.
Differences in voting between the jury and the audience have led to surprising results in the past – so will the Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine definitely score with the folk-inspired rap song “Stefania”?
“Sometimes there are differences in voting. Last time Ukraine won in 2016 they didn’t win either the jury vote or the public vote but the way it was balanced they placed at the top overall so the vote can definitely swing.
“We know public support will be huge. So if the jury ranks the song lower, say seventh or eighth place, that could just knock them off the top spot.
“It’s impossible to say if they will definitely win, but Ukraine – I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. I think it will definitely make the top three by the public vote.
“If Ukraine goes on and wins, that would be an incredibly powerful symbol, but also on a human level it would be a clear message of solidarity.”
Where does the competition go from here?
Eurovision has existed in times of political unrest and tensions within the continent, but has often shied away from taking sides.
Organizers even removed entries, songs and physically removed performers from the arena for making political statements on stage.
This year, however, the competition appears to have moved away from its apolitical sensibilities, having bowed to public pressure and shutting Russia out of the competition for external political circumstances.
On February 25, a day after initially stating that the political climate must not affect the competition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) confirmed that Russia would not compete for fear of “discrediting the competition”.
Russia chose not to take part in the 2017 competition, which was held in Kyiv, due to the ongoing conflict in Crimea, but this is the first time the country has been forcibly removed by organizers.
“It is symbolic that Ukraine is performing, but also that Russia is not allowed to participate.
“Eurovision is incredibly popular in Russia, and Eurovision often tries to avoid any kind of political controversy.
“I think they did the right thing in a way with excluding Russia and not platforming Russia. After releasing the statement saying it was not a political organization but a TV show, they read the room and realized they had to act.
“It’s really strong, but it also put the EBU in a bit of a challenging situation.”
Eurovision’s desire to remain apolitical in the past has landed the competition in hot water in the past.
For example, in 2019 Icelandic band Hatari was removed during the results process for waving Palestinian flags in the middle of the Tel Aviv venue, and the Icelandic delegation was fined over the incident.
The band, which placed third in the final results, was vocal in support of the Palestinian people but also condemned the reaction of the organisers, who also faced criticism from the public for removing the band.
“Eurovision’s ‘no politics’ rule got them into tricky territory at times, so I think they did the right thing this time,” says Paul.
“Where they go from here will also be interesting because it’s almost like they’ve admitted it’s a political event. Politics matters, and sometimes there is a right and a wrong.”
“I don’t think they’re going to be some sort of ‘UN’ or international guardian, but I think they definitely need to acknowledge the broader political context.
“They will try to do everything they can to keep it non-political, but they will move forward. I think they will acknowledge it and they must acknowledge it.
“There is indeed a special role in the Eurovision Song Contest when politics comes into play. How special is the fact that we have these countries with political challenges and yet they are willing to participate and be on the same stage. I think that’s a really strong message.”
https://www.nationalworld.com/culture/television/eurovision-2022-ukraine-win-most-political-song-contest-dr-eurovision-3692245 Why Ukraine will win the most political Eurovision yet