Ukraine won but, better yet, Greece didn’t

Bookmakers in the United Kingdom predicted that Sakis Rouvas of Greece would win the Eurovision Song Contest this year, according to news reports. My daughter and I, who have become perhaps a bit obsessed with the competition, could not have imagined a worse result.

The bookmakers figured that Greece’s entry, “Shake It,” would take the Eurovision title. For us, the song had no value and the way Rouvas shook it on stage should have been an embarassment for Greece.

For the second year in a row, we hooked my laptop computer to our television set in the living room, briefly marveling at how modern technology allowed us to sit on a couch in Minnesota while watching a television program originating live in Turkey. But as the votes came in from across Europe after all 24 finalists performed live May 15 in Istanbul, we couldn’t believe Greece actually found itself in a three-way race for the title with Serbia and Montenegro and with Ukraine. Greece was even in first several times.

(Latvia’s entry, “Dziesma par laimi” by the duo Fomins & Kleins, failed to get past the May 12 semifinal, landing in 17th place. That means Latvia next year again will have to compete in the semifinal, rather than automatically being entered in the final.)

The final was broadcast this year in 36 nations, where viewers were invited to vote by telephone after all 24 finalists performed. One is not allowed to vote for one’s own national entry. Votes are converted to points, with each country giving 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 12 points to other countries.

The usual geopolitics and ethnopolitics certainly played a role in how the televoting proceeded. Balkan audiences supported their Balkan brethren. The Scandinavians supported each other. Russia gave its top votes to Ukraine and Serbia.

Latvia gave its highest votes, 12 and 10, to Ukraine and Russia, respectively. Neither Estonia nor Lithuania were in the final, either. Eurovision voters in both of those countries also gave their top votes to Ukraine.

But through all that there also was a sense that the popularity of some songs had a bearing on the results. Why the Greek entry should be popular, however, did not make sense. As they say, there’s no accounting for taste.

I’m not prone to expressions of glee, but did find myself halfway off the couch in excitement when the final results were tallied and Ruslana Lyzhicko’s “Wild Dances” was pronounced the winner. Next year, the 50th anniversary Eurovision contest will be held in Ukraine.

Already naysayers are again slamming Eurovision as a kettle of kitsch—or worse. Of course many of the songs are tripe, but it seems the loudest complaints come from nations whose tripe didn’t win. Many of the complaints come from western Europe, where Eurovision has not been held now for three years (last year it was in Latvia and the year before that in Estonia). Perhaps the griping will end once someone from England, France or some other country in “Old Europe” reclaims the title.

Media notes

A couple of notes about media in Latvia, both about television.

First, Latvijas Televīzija (Latvian State Television) has a new director general. Jānis Holšteins has been named to permanently fill the post left vacant when the repatriant Uldis Grava quit Jan. 16. Holšteins comes from the LTV ranks (he has served as head of the LTV-1 channel), unlike the man whom Grava wanted to replace him.

Grava left LTV to work for the political party Jaunais laiks, led by former Prime Minister Einars Repše. He tapped Edgars Kots, who worked for a Rīga-based advertising agency, as his successor. That drew criticism from within and without LTV, some pointing to Kots’ apparent lack of qualifications to run a state broadcaster, others questioning Grava’s motives. The newsroom at LTV even took the unusual step of publically declaring its displeasure.

But the May 10 decision by the National Radio and Television Council to give the job to Holšteins appears to have quieted the critics. Kots remains at LTV as second in command.

Also, the “city television” station TV5, previously viewable around Rīga and on the Internet, now will be available throughout Latvia. The only Latvian television station with a live stream on the Internet, TV5 carries a mix of current affairs and entertainment programming (including the popular “Talantu fabrika”) in Latvian and Russian.

TV5 in April began beaming its signal over satellite and cable through the services of Sweden’s Nordic Satellite.


Ukrainian singer Ruslana won the Eurovision Song Contest with her song, “Wild Dances.” (Publicity photo)

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

One thought on “Ukraine won but, better yet, Greece didn’t

  1. I have to say I dont know what you’re talking about when you criticise Greece’s entry, it should have won, and as for the way Sakis “shook it” on stage-that was the best part! How it was a disgrace does not seem clear at all from your comments. As for Eurovision Songs being tripe, people in Western Europe have been saying it for years, particularly satirical tv in Ireland when they won it three times in a row. But the fact that Eurovision in kitsch is the whole point, it’s a glorious celebration of kitsch and bad lyrics with shiny costumes and dance routines. Dont take it so seriously, it’s just a bit of fun!

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