Eurovision 2012: “Good luck on your journey, Azerbaijan!”

Mark Lawson on the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Azerbaijan – “the most politicised contest yet.” [Apart from the one in 1974? – Ed] Indeed. Back to Mark Lawson.

Tensions between several of the core participants had been raised by the possible exit of Greece from the stricken eurozone and, increasing the volume of disharmony to Jedward levels, BBC news and current affairs programmes have run several reports questioning the suitability of the host nation because of Azerbaijan’s record of human rights abuses and media censorship. Political dissidents arrested during protests last week were reported to have been jailed shortly before the contest began.

Employed to chortle over outfits and lyrics, should and would Norton mention such controversies? “As you may have heard in the news,” he mentioned at one point, “there have been some stories about riots and arrests, but I’ve seen no trouble.” Later, he noted that the Swedish entrant had been “outspoken about some of the human issues here” and might say something from the stage if she won. But, when she did, she didn’t.

The host regime hardly enhanced their reputation for democracy when it turned out that the national entertainer given the chance to perform to a global audience of 120 million while the phone-voting took place was Emin Agalarov, the son-in-law of President Ilham Aliyev. Say what you like about Britain but, if Humperdinck had triumphed, we probably wouldn’t have had the Cameron and Clegg kids lined up on the 02 stage as the 2013 interval act.

As if nervous of the country’s reputation, Azeri TV took the unusual step of showing the external scrutineers from Eurovision, present to remove doubt about the counting. This may have encouraged the chairwoman of the German voting jury to make the evening’s most politically barbed speech. “It’s good to be able to vote and good to have a choice,” she declared. “Good luck on your journey, Azerbaijan!”

As for the 76-year-old Arnold George Dorsey Engelbert Humperdinck, the BBC’s entry came second last with 12 points.  Going first didn’t help, but the live performance didn’t match the hype either…

Ireland RTÉ experienced diminishing returns with Jedward’s second coming, 19th out of 26 contestants – with 10 points coming from the UK vote.  But if you present a perfomance that depends on precision and timing for its impact and you don’t deliver…  [Who knew?! – Ed]  Louis Walsh?

In the event the winner was the allegedly politically aware Swedish entry, Loreen.

Loreen racked up a massive 372 points on the leader board, leaving a trail of disappointed contenders in her wake.

A combination of points from televoting and national juries decides the winner.

Each country awards points to 10 competitors based on judges’ scores and a public vote, with 12 points being the maximum awarded.

“I love you so much. Thank you for believing in me,” the 28-year-old Swede told her supporters, as she took to the stage to sing one final time.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”

Euphoria has already topped the charts in five countries, including Sweden and neighbouring Finland. Norway had the dubious honour of last place.

So, for the record, here is the winning song.

Bring back Lordi…