If you’re a newcomer to the world of Eurovision, you might think it’s a straightforward talent show where voters put their points towards the act they believe has performed best on the night. Well, a slightly more cynical squint at the process reveals a bubbling-hot underbed of realpolitik. Which makes the whole thing even more exciting, right? Here are some of the more prominent alliances and relationships.
The Viking Empire keep the spirit of ABBA alive
This is the one that annoys the Brits most of all. It isn’t just Sweden, Norway and Finland – they also have Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia and Denmark watching their backs. Obviously there’s a shared culture of sorts here, even if it is spread quite thin. Something about salted fish and extreme cold? Anyway, this arrangement seems to work out better for some members of the bloc than others... otherwise how do you explain Norway’s 11 wooden spoons?
The Balkan Bloc have their ups and downs
Look, the presence of these voting blocs doesn’t mean Eurovision is a lock – otherwise the same country would win every year. And really, it’s fascinating how real-world issues can affect this song contest. For example, if you’ve banded together with your neighbours in the Balkan region, but they’re having economic issues that mean they can’t afford to compete, you’re shedding a significant number of votes. That’s what happened in 2014, when Serbia and Croatia bowed out.
The UK, Ireland and Malta are strange bedfellows
For a while there, everybody hated England (and this was before Brexit). But in recent times they’ve managed to patch things up with Ireland and get Malta on board for a mutual back-patting party that seems primarily based on having English as an official language. As such, you might think Australia would get on board with this trio, but we haven’t been that fussed on the Mother Country’s entries so far. Maybe this year?
The Pyrenean Axis has a very cool name, if not much else
Essentially made up Spain and Andorra, the Pyrenean Axis is the prime example of mini-blocs scattered throughout the competition as a “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” scenario. Belgium and the Netherlands are another example, but “Partial Benelux” didn’t sound as cool for the subhead. Some people bundle Portugal into the Pyrenean Axis, too, but it depends who you ask, really. When you do, ask like a circa-1960s British spy: “What do you know about the Pyranean Axis?”
The Soviet Union retains a ghostly grip on the East
When you spend decades locked together under the iron fist of a dictatorship, you tend to bond over a shared cultural landscape. And so it is with many of the nations that were once part of the USSR. Even if they aren’t part of a collective voting bloc that marches in rigid lockstep towards the finish line like a worker turning his face to the bright sun of Communism, they like the same kinda music. It’s like hearing a song you hated as a teenager and smiling at the nostalgia of it all. Ukraine has banned the Russian entrant this year, so who knows how that will play out...
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.