Sunday, 25 May 2008

Russia wins Eurovision '08 amidst debate over Eastern Bloc voting

Saturday night proved 2nd time lucky for Russian singer Dima Bilan, who beat out 24 singers and bands to win the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest in Belgrade, Serbia.

The long-running song contest is derided by many, but this year's final was watched by an estimated TV audience of 100 million people.

It's the first time Russia has won the European song contest, after a number of top 3 finishes in previous years. Dima Bilan himself came 2nd in 2006 with the pop song Never Let You Go.

Many commentators thought Bilan's chances weren't as strong this year, with a much weaker song, the rock ballad Believe.

However, Bilan turned in a strong live performance, being joined by Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton, as well as roping in Olympic skater Evgeni Plushenko who skated on a stage of artificial ice.

* Eurovision 2008 Winner - Russia: Dima Bilan - Believe

Eurovision voting put Ani Lorak (Ukraine) second in the final with the highly fancied Shady Lady, while Greece's Kalomira finished in 3rd place with the song Secret Combination.

But the real winner, as far as many Western European fans were concerned, was Sweden. Charlotte Perrelli was one of the bookie's choices to take out the contest this year, with her "schlager disco stomper" Hero, but ended up finishing 15th in the Final.

Perrelli is more well known outside Sweden as Charlotte Nilsson, having previously won the Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden in 1999, with the song Take Me To Your Heaven.

* Dave's choice - Sweden: Charlotte Perrelli - Hero

2008 was the biggest ever Eurovision Song Contest, which is now in its 53rd year. 43 countries took part, with 38 of them competing in two semi-finals before the 25 finalists were confirmed.

Organisers tried to answer complaints over the growing problem of "Eastern and Balkan bloc" voting, separating countries which had a history of voting for each other.

A wildcard "jury selection" was also made in each of the semi-finals, after mainly Eastern European countries progressed from the semi-final in previous years.

* Dave's 2nd pick: Latvia: Pirates of the Sea-Wolves of the Sea
(Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Rednex and Aqua ;-)

The efforts to limit bloc voting only partially worked, and there are renewed calls from many of the "traditional" Eurovision countries to overhaul the voting system, with some suggesting an "iron curtain has descended across Eurovision".

Some are calling for drastic action with suggestion that Western European countries like the UK, Malta, Ireland, and Germany should pull out of the concert.

(The UK finished last in this year's Final... and while political voting wouldn't have helped that result, Andy Abraham's song Even If was the United Kingdom's weakest entry in a decade.)

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