Australia’s love affair with Eurovision has been a long, passionate and enduring one, at times perplexing our not-so-fanatical European counterparts. But like the little engine that could, we eventually groupie-d our way into performing there!
By
Genevieve Dwyer

15 Apr 2016 - 11:34 AM  UPDATED 15 Apr 2016 - 11:34 AM

With a strong population of European migrants and a love of televised song contests - from current incarnations,  like The Voice Australia and The X Factor, to the classics Young Talent Time and Countdown - it’s actually surprising that Australia didn’t get involved in Eurovision sooner.

But then, of course, we have been involved in our own way for some time. Long before we were granted wildcard entry status and shipped Guy Sebastian off to represent us in Vienna, Australia has been honouring the grand tradition of Eurovision for decades, especially since SBS began broadcasting the even in 1983.

Our viewing figures have even eclipsed some of the European nations over the past few years, and we’ve taken to voting with vigour since SBS first offered the in-country option in 2010. Here are all the other times we proved just how much we loved the event spectacular that is Eurovison!

 

1. When we got our own fictional Eurovision hero: Zlad

2003’s Zladko "Zlad" Vladcik was the hero Eurovision deserved, but not the one it needed. A character created and performed by Santo Cilauro to accompany the satirical 'Jetlag Travel Guide' of the fictional Eastern European nation of Molvanîa, the piece was written by Cilauro, along with fellow comedians Rob Sitch and Tom Gleisner. Zlad was apparently a superstar in his home country.

Sent to represent Molvanîaat Eurovision, he only made it as far as the airport, because, as the authors put it, “While Eurovision does not normally test for recreational drugs, unfortunately for Vladcik, Turkish Customs do.”

Despite not making it to Eurovision, Zlad did put out a pretty fabulous video to accompany his synth-pop classic, 'Elektronik – Supersonik' and gained something of a cult following online.

 

2. Our ABBA obsession

It’s no secret that Australia’s passion for the Swedish 70s pop group borders on the fanatical. Of course, the four-piece first made their name on Eurovision with their hit ‘Waterloo’ in 1974, but it was Australia who helped propel them to - and keep them at - the top of the charts for the next eight years. 

 

3. When we kept Dschinghis Khan top of the charts for six weeks!

Yep, turns out ABBA weren’t the only camp, flare-wearing 70s pop group to come out of Eurovision that we took an uncanny liking to. Not only did German (then West-German) group Dschinghis Khan impress at the song dontest in 1979 with their disco-infused tribute to the 12th century Mongol emporer, they then stayed at the top of the Aussie charts for six weeks in 1980 with their hit 'Moskau'.

Post-Eurovision, the track was chosen as the theme song for Australia's coverage of the Moscow Olympics. It seems the pop song sat well with sports fans. 

 

4. The time we sent Jessica Mauboy to perform

We no doubt owe a lot to Northern Territorian diva Jessica Mauboy. Our 2015 wildcard entry came on the back of her brilliant guest performance in Copenhagen the year before. Sashaying around the stage in that standout gold dress, Jess got the audience dancing with her track 'Sea of flags'. 

 

5. The times we welcomed Eurovision stars with open arms

We’ve propelled recent Eurovision stars, such as Jedward and Loreen, to the top of ARIA charts and happily hosted their tours here. Greek singer and former Eurovision winner Nana Mouskouri frequently graces our shores and, most recently, we hosted the iconic 2015 winner Conchita Wurst as a special guest at Mardi Gras  - where she announced this year's Aussie Eurovision representative, Dami Im, onstage at the Opera House. She's also attended the Logies as a special guest.

 

6. The way we watched and voted

For the past few years, more than 10 per cent of Australia's entire population has tuned in to watch the song contest. To put that in perspective, our viewership often exceeded the population many of the actual participating countries.

Since 2010, Australians have also taken Eurovision voting quite seriously, even though back then our opinions only counted in the SBS telepoll, not the actual outcome. Now, however, it's a different kettle of fish, with early-rising viewers able to cast their votes along with their friends across the world during the live broadcast. 

 

7. Our grand tradition of Eurovision parties 

As Australian Eurovision fans, our motto has always been that if you can’t party in Europe, bring the party Down Under! Over the years, plenty of Eurovision drinking games have sprung up. Popular rules include: shot every time there’s a technical malfunction; every time someone emerges in a traditional costume; every time there’s a song about love; every time someone uses a smoke or wind machine… you get the picture! 

 

8. That time we created a musical tribute to Eurovision

Eurobeat! – Almost Eurovision first featured as an act in the 2004 line-up of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Quickly transforming into a full-blown franchise, the the musical has toured widely overseas. Eurobeat was so popular in Ediburgh, it became the top-selling act of the city's 2007 Fringe Festival! And who was one of the original cast members? Why SBS’s very own Eurovision presenter and champion Julia Zemiro!

 

9. The times we snuck Aussies into the competition 

Aussie Olivia Newton John represented the UK in 1974, but lost out to ABBA, while our own Gina G also represented the motherland in 1996 with her song 'Ooh Aah…Just a Little Bit', which didn’t win, but went to number one in the charts in Britain, and took out fifth place here. 

Johnny Logan or "Mr Eurovision" earned the infamous title after being the only competitor to win Eurovision twice. He might have done so representing Ireland, but he grew up in the Victorian town of Frankston, just outside of Melbourne. So, as we are prone to do, we’ll claim him as our own!

 

10. When we gleefully made a Eurovision postcard

In 2013, host nation Sweden invited Australia to send a short video celebrating our love of Eurovision Down Under. This was an exciting step on our path to inclusion in the world's biggest party!

 

11. Those times our kitsch-radar almost surpassed Eurovision's 

From our biggest pop-export Kylie Minogue to Priscilla Queen of the Desert and those inflatable kangaroos on bikes that starred in the Sydney Olympics, Australia embraces all things camp and fabulous and we truly showed it off during Jessica Mauboy’s 2014 performance.

With a presentation featuring giant koala heads, neon-clad surfer boys and an astronaut waving an aboriginal flag, our godmothers of kitsch, Dame Edna and Kath and Kim must have been proud!

 

12. The day we had royalty on our side

Princess Mary dropped by when Denmark hosted in 2014 and met our guest performer Jess Mauboy. It’s been rumoured the Princess might have had something to do with our follow-up invite to compete in Copenhagen with a wildcard entry!

 

13. The times Sam and Julia lived our Eurovision dreams

Outside of Europe, we put more effort into our broadcast than any other country. With their irreverence and genuine affection for the comp, SBS's Aussie presenters Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang have done us proud year-on-year. We can't deny these two have played a huge part in “building bridges” for us to compete at the 60th anniversary. Let’s not forget previous Aussie commentators either. Effie Stephanides and Des Mangan helped pave the way for the national viewing obsession that Eurovision has become!

 

The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on SBS’s Eurovision Weekend - Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Grand Final Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm on SBS, with LIVE early morning broadcasts from 5am on Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May.

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