The Eurovision Song Contest, showcase of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), remained as popular as ever in 2012 amid controversy over its staging in Azerbaijan, and ongoing contempt from some quarters that regard the event as a longstanding embarrassment for the continent.
But, its success in continuing to attract global audiences over 100 million is rooted in its light heartedness and the fact that it does not take itself too seriously, even if perhaps the EBU does. This year, a fair dollop of glamour was added by the overwhelming winner, Swedish star Loreen, who bested a challenge including dancing Russian pensioners. Sweden’s delight was compounded by neighboring Norway finishing bottom, continuing its lamentable record in the event, while the UK, represented by veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, managed only one place better.
The decision to allow Azerbaijan to host the event attracted vigorous opposition from both within and outside the country on account of its poor human rights record. The EBU had argued that the country was more likely to improve its human rights by being included in the event, and time will tell whether that view was justified. The country’s government had intended the event to promote Azerbaijan as a desirable destination for both tourism and business, but in the event opposition groups were successful in exploiting the Eurovision limelight to advance their demands for democracy, and for the existing government to resign.