Eurovision rocked by series of controversies | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 15.05.2009
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Culture

Eurovision rocked by series of controversies

The famous annual kitsch-fest that is the Eurovision Song Contest is to take place in the Russian capital on Saturday. There's been one controversy after another in the run-up to the event.

Hadise

Turkey's Hadise is among the bookies' favorites

It might have limped in last place at the contest in Belgrade last year, but Germany is pulling out all the stops in 2009 with an entry called "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang!" with a little help from burlesque dancer Dita von Teese.

Resorting to support from a world-famous stripper with no actual ties to Germany is a fairly desperate measure - and the word on the street is that the country still doesn't stand a chance.

The favorites have already emerged. These include Turkish pop singer Hadise, a Beyonce look-alike whose act "Dum Tek Tek" combines oriental rhythms and belly dancing, and a Jewish-Arab duo who go by the name of Achinoam Nini.

As Israel's first mixed ethnic entry to the contest in decades, the Jewish singer better known abroad as Noa and Mira Awad, a Christian Arab Israeli, will perform a tune called "There must be another way".

Awad has faced accusations from within the Arab community of turning her back on her Palestinian heritage by representing Israel alongside a Jewish performer.

Friends and foes

But controversies are par for the course at the annual event, which tends to highlight hostilities rather than harmonies between the contenders.

Bosnia and Hercegovina's Eurovision entry

Bosnia and Hercegovina's Eurovision entry, Bistra Voda

Given its sprawling scale, it is hardly a surprise.

Along with the countries that automatically qualify for the contest, a record number of 43 countries have been represented in the knock-out rounds for the 54th Eurovision song contest this year. Artists from 25 of them will now compete in the final.

Among those that have qualified to perform at the Olimpiyski Indoor Arena this weekend are Turkey, Sweden, Israel, Portugal, Malta, Finland, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Romania, Armenia and Iceland, after voting by television viewers and juries across Europe.

Russian rumpus

The event is to be held in Moscow after Dima Bilan last year gave Russia its first victory with a rock ballad called "Believe."

But despite promising to stage the most lavish Eurovision ever, Russia hasn't proved to be the most gracious of hosts.

Georgia, which fought a war against Russia last August, pulled out of the competition after the governing body banned its song for containing political references, perceived as a thinly-veiled swipe at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, Russia's own entry has been criticized by nationalists because the singer hails from Ukraine, another country that has strained relations with Moscow. The choice was seen by many as "un-Russian."

But the final straw came when Russian gay pride events coinciding with the contest were banned by the Moscow authorities. Gay rights groups insisted they would go ahead with a demonstration in central Moscow on the day of the final in an effort to draw attention to the discrimination and violence they say the country's gay people face.

Legoland excluded

Legoland

Legoland is not a contender

So much for Russia's problems - perhaps even more inflammatory is a decision taken by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the event, not to accept an entry from Legoland, despite a personal appeal by a man calling himself 'Legoman' who visited the EBU headquarters in Geneva.

A delegation purporting to represent Legoland entered the Geneva headquarters of the EBU, which organizes the popular annual contest, and asked to see the director of Eurovision TV.

"I am delighted that this year's Eurovision Song Contest is attracting such great interest," said Bjorn Erichsen, Director of Eurovision TV.

"Unfortunately Legoland is not eligible to participate because it does not have a public service broadcaster which belongs to the EBU," he said.

As the Russian daily Kommersant noted, "the scandals are louder than the songs."

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