No matter what you think of it, on Sunday 19th May you will still ask who won and where did the United Kingdom finish. Was it nil points? More, in some way contrived to be less? And who is Michael Rice, anyway? He won the BBC’s All Together Now in 2018; me either.
The odds on the UK winning aren’t good; Betfred offer 50/1 is the best we can find but on Betfair Exchange, you can get 89/1. Suffice to say, Mr Rice doesn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance.
The final is in Tel Aviv, Israel’s reward for winning last time around. It’s been 25 years since a nation retained the ‘crown’ when Ireland ruled the airwaves with In Your Eyes and Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids.
The latter is the least rock ‘n’ roll song you will hear.
And that is the whole point of Eurovision. It isn’t about being hip or trendy, it’s about three minutes of perfect pop. Or even better, imperfect pop for what is perfect in one country is far that in another.
There was a golden thirteen-year period for the competition from 1967 when Sandie Shaw’s shoeless performance of Puppet on a String through to 1980 when Johnny Logan turned up for Top of the Pops with a look which tells you everything which was wrong with the early 1980s.
In between times, hits flowed for the likes of Lulu, Abba, Brotherhood of Man and Bucks Fizz. The use of stars to sing entries is a practice which is fallen by the wayside. A glance at the list of United Kingdom entries in the first fifteen years of performers is akin to reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on easy listening.
Not that it is any guarantee of success. Engelbert Humperdinck is as English as they come, as big a star and household name, as you could wish for, but he finished 25th in 2012. Bonnie Tyler fared a little better twelve months later when she finished 19th.
Russia is favourited at 7/2 which is pretty impressive considering their song hasn’t been chosen. All we know so far is that Sergey Lazarev will represent them in Israel. Considering the Russians (allegedly) fixed the US Presidential election and Brexit vote, the Eurovision Song Contest is a piece of cake. Excuse me for one moment while I carefully place my tin foil hat to one side.
The presumption is that Lazarev will make it through the semi-final. Given ten nations make it through each semi-final, there’s little chance of him not making the final.
Sweden (7/1) are also in semi-final 2 with Russia with neither artist nor song decided until later this month. Tagged second favourites, there is a lot to live up to.
If you believe in ‘patterns’ to divine the winners, Ireland is one to watch as they, like the Swedes, won the year following an Israeli triumph. The Emerald Isle is yet to choose their entry but sit at 33/1, nonetheless.
Scandinavia is a good place to look for this year’s winner. In 1999, Sweden finished first, 2009 saw Norway occupy top spot so while Denmark (33/1) is something of a long shot and Finland even further adrift (66/1), Norway at 16/1 are real dark horses. If we knew what their song was. Which we don’t.
And that sums up the bonkers nature of Eurovision and why it remains so popular. We haven’t got a clue what half the songs are but we still want to bet on it.
A parting thought. Of the last 30 winning entries, twenty-two were sung not in the artists native tongue but in English. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as Abba will attest.
But as you plough through the entries – and fair play to you if you possess the stamina to do so – make a note of the language. Rule Britannia…
Odds from Betfred.com