Eurovision 2013 has officially started! It’s scary how quickly time flies. I’m here in Malmo where it’s all kicking off. Armenia is back after withdrawing last year so no doubt it’ll be business as usual for them and Azerbaijan (i.e. ignoring each other!) Whilst it’ll be interesting to see the interaction between the Swedes and the Belarusians following the teddy bear incident last year, after the controversy of 2012, it’s looking like a tame year in comparison, politically speaking.
So far so good here in Malmo, the city is small but friendly, expensive but clean and it’s shaping up to being the perfect city for Eurovision. Often when the event is in larger cities it gets lost somehow, Moscow and Istanbul were classic examples of this. Small cities like Tallinn, Helsinki and Malmo allow for an intimate atmosphere. I’m in a hotel with my friend Elaine for the first week before moving to an apartment in week two. It’s a rather small hotel, with a transparent shower screen. Good job we know each other pretty well! (We certainly will do after this trip!)
Eurovision of course has a massive gay following and the Swedes, unlike our Azeri hosts last year, are not afraid to reach out to the contest’s core fans. In the hotel reception there are gay magazines, Eurovision guides and maps of the city’s gay scene. We certainly won’t have any exciting experiences this year like we did in Baku; underground gay bars and local pubs for local people. However, it’s quite refreshing really to feel welcomed in a city where people are safe to live their lives.
The theme for the show this year is “We are one” which is an interesting one, fashioning Europe as a united entity when in reality it’s a fractured construct, economically, politically and socially. Much has been made here in Malmo of the multicultural vibrancy in the city, so perhaps it’s fitting that such an international event is here, in the city where over 150 languages are spoken.
The Swedes are doing things differently this year, they’ve arranged Eurovision on a much smaller scale. The venue is small, the press centre is restricted until Friday and currently the assembled press are crammed into the Slaghuset (the slag house, and venue for the Euro Club). SVT are undoubtedly aiming to present a slick, professional television show. For them, this is just that, a television event. Unlike previous hosts where Eurovision has become almost like a circus, the Swedes don’t appear to be engaging in a quasi-propaganda offensive. To be blunt, they don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
Rehearsals began in earnest this morning. I will try and update the blog daily, although I am going to Ukraine for two days tomorrow, back Thursday. Euro Club opens tonight so no doubt there will be a few sore heads and lighter wallets tomorrow! More later!