Eurovision: Singing for Cultural Diplomacy

It is that time of the year again! We are only a few weeks away from Eurovision! Last year, to my surprise, I met some people who didn’t know about this beautiful event! I thought Eurovision was the second biggest event in the universe – the first being, of course, the World Cup.

When something is an inherent part of your culture and life, it is very difficult to explain it, especially when other people have no idea what you are talking about – “It is like American Idol – but an entire continent competes” or “It is a parade of songs and stage shows that have never left the 80s” or simply “Just watch it, it is fun”. Last year, I watched the final with friends from Nepal, New Zealand, and the UK. It was really interesting and funny to see non-European reaction to the contest.

Let me try to explain what Eurovision is. Once upon a time European countries came together and started an organization called European Broadcasting Union (EBU). EBU decided to do something to bring European countries together after the World War II, and tried to test the broadcasting technologies. Eurovision, a song contest broadcasted simultaneously in several countries, started in 1956. And we still watch it, and no, apart from Ireland, we are still not bored (Ireland won Eurovision seven times). The winner country gets to host the following year’s contest. Last year, Norway won, and Eurovision 2010 will take place in Oslo, Norway.

Eurovision, for me at least, presents a snapshot of European politics, as well as our deep commitment to disco era. Last year, I was in a position to explain why Scandinavian countries give 12 points to each other, why it is a big issue when Turkey votes for Cyprus, and why we pretend to speak French (deuze pointe). Now, on one hand, we forget about politics – Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and even Israel are seen as ‘European’ countries, we love to hear them sing together. On the other hand, when it comes to voting, we are reminded how powerful political relations are in Europe – i.e. 12 points are exchanged between countries with strong ties (yes Scandinavian countries, I am talking about you!! Stop doing that!).

Long story short, thanks to Eurovision, people see at least some faces, melodies, and lyrics from all around the continent. Visit Eurovision’s website at and be a part of this great event!

PS: This is Turkey in ESC 2010:

and this is my favorite song thus far – Iceland:

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