This was written the morning after the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest – the one which saw a disconsolate Terry Wogan declaring that he couldn’t go through with another Eurovision Song Contest.
“Let’s not take it away from him – let’s congratulate him,” he said. But, with seconds to go before the end of a 205 minute broadcast, Sir Terry Wogan’s feelings about this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the Russian song that won it, and the way it won were about as warm as the wind that whips through Red Square on a winter’s day. He had explicitly alleged that “politics” would win it for Believe by Dima Bilan, and then – as the song stretched its lead ahead of Greece and Armenia – proceeded to get strangely maudlin. We couldn’t see him, but as early as the third round of voting – which saw Russia receive twelve points from Ukraine, the twinkling Wogan of all our Eurovision yesterdays had been ousted from his seat and replaced by Dark Terry. “Ukraine just want to be sure that the old electricity and the oil flows through,” was his muttered reaction.
As the face of Britain’s singing binman Andy Abraham became clear, Dark Terry levelled his criticism at clearly inferior songs that had won more points. Admittedly, there weren’t many (inferior songs that is – it turned out that every song received more points than us). Referring to Rodolfo Chikilicuatre – Spain’s Elvis-wigged equivalent of Timmy Mallett – he gasped words that we surely never thought we would hear coming from a Knight of the Realm: “I simply don’t believe it. They’ve had 53 for [Baila el] Chiki-Chiki [the Spanish entry].” From Wogan’s vantage point, Andy Abraham “gave the performance of his life” – which told you rather more about Abrahams life than the forgettable sub-Stock Aitken & Waterman dreck he was there to sing.
Inasmuch as Russia’s song was just as rubbish – and great tunes by the likes of Croatia and Portugal floundered mid-table – Wogan had a point. Having failed to win it for Russia two years ago, Dima Bilan brought reinforcements this time. A tiny ice rink that appeared to have been unpacked from a specially-made briefcase, an unhinged violinist and, to his left, a blonde, mullet-haired ice-skater careering around the tiny rink with a zeal that suggested a deeply unhappy childhood was being avenged before our very eyes. None of which was any impediment to victory for the song.
As Belarus – a country who, lest we forget, had overwhelmingly opposed independence from Russia – lobbed douze points in their direction, you could sense something fermenting in the commentary box. It was a thoroughly fed-up call-to-arms from a broadcasting titan. Referring, in part, to the departure of the BBC’s Eurovision producer Kevin Bishop, Wogan said, “He and I have to decide whether we want to do this again.” Then, in what might be Europop’s equivalent of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Sir Terry suggested that “Western participants have to decide whether they want to do this again.”
All of which left wondering if a little perspective had been lost here. In 1980, 62 countries boycotted the Olympic Games in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The action prompted Peter Gabriel to write Games Without Frontiers – a song seeks to highlight the childish way that nations interact with each other. Now, in 2008, we’re talking about boycotting the next year’s Russian Eurovision because we came bottom.
Tell you what. Let’s just give it one more try, but with a decent song, eh? And if we still come bottom, then we’ll ponder the only dignified option available to us. Pull out? The country where the “These Colours Don’t Run” t-shirt was invented? Pah! Far from it! No, here’s what I was thinking. We quickly cede independence to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, The Isle Of Man, The Isle Of Wight, Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney – thereby making them eligible to enter songs for next year’s Eurovision. And then, let the back-scratching commence.