Forty countries will participate at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin between 10 – 14 May this year, after rock band Måneskin won for Italy in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 2021. Although described as non-political, geopolitical events in Europe frequently overlap with it, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This Just the Facts will examine the impact of this on the competition, provide an overview of the contest and look at the top four songs tipped to win.
What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
The Eurovision Song Contest, also known as Eurovision for short, is an international song competition that is organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The EBU describes itself “as the world’s leading alliance of public service media” with 113 member organizations in 56 countries. Established in May 1950, it is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with a technical office in Brussels, Belgium. It is not part of the European Union.
Members of the EBU, in addition to invited associated members, participate by submitting a song which is performed live in the country that won the previous year. However, other countries have stepped in to host on behalf of others. For example, in 1972, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) hosted the competition in Edinburgh on behalf of Monaco’s Télé Monte-Carlo following Séverine winning with the song “Un banc, un arbre, une rue” (“A Bench, a Tree, a Street”) at the April 1971 contest in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin.
Over 50 countries have participated at least once in Eurovision, such as Morocco in 1980. Each entry must be an original song, last for no more than three minutes and be performed by up to six people on stage.
Each country awards two sets of 1 – 8, 10 and 12 points for their favourite song. One set of points is from a national jury of music professionals, while the second set is based on the public vote, also referred to as televoting.
This system of voting applies to the two semi-finals, which see 20 songs selected and the grand finale, which automatically includes ‘Big Five’, that is the five countries which make the biggest financial contribution to the EBU and the host country. The ‘Big Five’ are France (France 2), Germany (ARD/NDR), Italy (RAI), Spain (TVE) and the UK (BBC).
Russia, Ukraine and Eurovision 2022
The biggest political issue to have impacted Eurovision this year has been Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022. Due to this, Ukraine’s state broadcaster, UA:PBC, appealed to the EBU to suspend the membership of Russian broadcasters VGTRK and Channel One and exclude Russia from competing in this year’s Eurovision in Turin.
Initially, the EBU responded with a statement saying that “the Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political cultural event. The EBU is however concerned about current events in Ukraine and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
In response, nine EBU members publicly stated that the EBU should reverse this decision, namely Denmark (DR), Estonia (ERR), Finland (Yle), Iceland (RÚV), Lithuania (LRT), the Netherlands (AVROTROS), Norway (NRK), Poland (TVP) and Sweden (SVT).
On 25 February, the EBU released a statement saying that “no Russian act will participate in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute.”
In terms of Ukraine’s entry this year, originally, Alina Pash had won Ukraine’s Eurovision national competition Vidbir (“Selection”) with the song “Tini zabutykh predkiv” (“Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”) on 14 February 2022. However, shortly after her selection, she withdrew from participating for Ukraine in Turin this year, as it had emerged that she had travelled to Crimea in 2015.
A rule was introduced in Ukraine, where if a Ukrainian Eurovision artist had performed in Russia or entered Crimea since 2014, they would be prohibited from representing Ukraine. Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in early 2014, which is not internationally recognised.
Kalush Orchestra was the runner-up in Vidbir and were subsequently selected to represent Ukraine at this year’s Eurovision.
Favourites to win in Turin
After the 14 March deadline for broadcasters to submit their competing entries, it was announced that 40 songs will compete in Turin. Since early April the bookies’ favourite to win the 2022 Eurovision has remained consistent, Ukraine, followed by Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
For Ukraine, the folk-hip hop group Kalush Orchestra will perform “Stefania”, sung entirely in Ukrainian. The song, which will be non-political, uses lyrics that mix traditions from Ukrainian folk song with modern rap. The Ukrainian for lullaby (“lyuli”) features throughout, referencing a traditional Slavic folk lullaby. Ukraine has won the Eurovision twice, in 2004 and 2016.
For Italy, singers Mahmood and Blanco won the 2022 Sanremo Music Festival with the ballad “Brividi” (“Shivers”), giving them the right to represent Italy at Eurovision. Mahmood represented Italy at the May 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, Israel. He performed “Soldi” (“Money”) in the grand finale, coming second after falling short by just 26 points. Italy has won Eurovision three times: 1964, 1990 and 2021.
After winning with Sweden’s 2022 Melodifestivalen, Cornelia Jakobs will perform “Hold Me Closer” in Turin, a sombre yet rousing love song. Sweden has won the Eurovision six times (1974, 1984, 1991, 1999, 2012 and 2015), just one win behind Ireland’s seven.
Following an internal selection process, the BBC chose Sam Ryder to perform “Space Man“, an uplifting pop song, for the UK. Although winning five times in 1967, 1969, 1976, 1981, and with “Love Shine a Light” performed by Katrina and the Waves at the Point Theatre, Dublin in May 1997, the UK has generally performed poorly in recent years. It received zero points in last year’s competition with the song “Embers” performed by James Newman.
Ireland will be represented by Brooke with her song “That’s Rich” after being selected on the Late Late Show Eurosong Special in February.
After the cancellation of the 2020 competition due to Covid-19, its return to Rotterdam in 2021 was welcomed after its absence during a particularly challenging year. The 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin begins with the first semi-final on Tuesday, 10 May, the second, in which Ireland’s Brooke will compete, will be on Thursday, 12 May, with the Grand Final taking place on Saturday, 14 May 2022. All shows will begin at 8pm Irish time.