Eurovision 2009 Kicks Off In Moscow, Russia
The Eurovision Song Contest 2009 has opened today in Moscow, Russia. The 54th singing contest featuring Europe’s best will take place May 12-16 at the sold-out Olympic Indoor Arena in Russia’s capital. Forty-two European nations have entered to participate in this year's event. Russia won the rights to host Eurovision 2009 after Russian singer Dima Bilan placed first at last year’s Eurovision contest in Belgrade, Serbia. This year will be the first time for Russia to host the Eurovision Song Contest.
How Does Eurovision Work?
Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956 and enjoys an audience of anywhere between 100 and 600 million viewers each year. Participating European countries choose a representative who sings live in the contest’s finals. All participating members than vote to determine the winner. The winning nation has to host the contest in the upcoming year. The songs presented at the contest have to be new and cannot be commercially released or broadcast before the contest.
This Year's Controversy
With the Eurovision Song Contest being staged in Russia for the first time in the history of Eurovision, controversy could not be avoided. Georgia has withdrawn from this year's contest twice. First, the reason cited for withdrawal was the 2008 conflict in South Ossetia in which Russia intervened. However, later the decision was reversed. When a representative from Georgia was finally selected, the Eurovision governing body has rejected the lyrics of the song titled “We Don’t Want to Put In,” claiming the song is making political references to Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. After the contestants from Georgia refused to change the lyrics of the song, they were disqualified for breaking the contest’s rules that require abstinence from political messages by contestants. In addition, Latvia has originally withdrawn over not being able to cover the entrance fee for financial reasons. However, it was later confirmed that Latvia would still participate. This year’s surprise is the duo of Jewish and Arab songstresses who will sing a song called "There Must Be Another Way." The two women hope their song will resonate with the rest of the world and will spread their message of peace. Moreover, Russia’s own entry has raised many eyebrows within Russia. Anastasia Prikhodko will represent Russia at Eurovision 2009, but is ethnically Ukrainian. Half of her entry song’s lyrics are also sung in Ukrainian. Many Russian critics were surprised by Prikhodko’s choice and said she should not be representing Russia. However, Prikhodko’s song placed first in the Russian Eurovision nationals after viewer voting.
Eurovision limited to Europe?
It has been said that Eurovision cannot garner sufficient interest globally. Some say that Eurovision is losing scale in Europe itself. In the last couple of years, western European nations started losing interest in Eurovision after Eastern European states claimed victory after victory, giving each other highest marks. The Eurovision Song Contest has been accused of political influence whereby countries allocate their votes in accordance with the political preferences of their governments rather than the artistic abilities of contestants. In response to these criticisms, it was announced that a national jury would now judge the contest. Whether general voting will still occur and have any influence in determining the winner of the contest remains to be seen in Moscow this week. This year, however, singers from Britain, Norway and Greece are among heavy favourites. Organizers hope that the interest of Westerners in Eurovision will go up after the U.S. talk show diva Oprah Winfrey invited two contestants representing Germany to speak on her show. The German duo Alex Swings Oscar Sings has an American connection with one of the singers Oscar Loya originally from California. Marilyn Manson’s ex-wife, the burlesque striptease dancer Dita von Teese was the inspiration behind the duo’s song Miss Kiss Kiss Bang. There are rumours that von Teese will take part in duo’s Eurovision performance.
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The Eurovision 2009 song contest will officially open in Moscow on Sunday, the contest's organizers said.
Moscow won the right to host the event for the first time after Russian pop singer Dima Bilan took first place in last year's Eurovision, held in Belgrade, with his song Believe.
The official opening ceremony will start at 10:00 p.m. Moscow time (6:00 p.m. GMT) and will be broadcast by Russia's TV Channel One.
Representatives of 41 European countries plus Israel will take part in the competition, to be held at the Olimpiisky Sports Complex, built for the 1980 Olympic Games, on May 10-16.
This year Russia will be represented by Ukrainian singer Anastasia Prikhodko.
Over 8,500 police and security officers will be on duty at the Eurovision 2009 Song Contest.