Eurovision Song Contest – January 8th 2011, the list of participants has been published, the host city is known to be Düsseldorf, the venue to be the Esprit Arena and the last ticket for the final had been sold nearly a month ago. Now, one year later, the crown of the Eurovision winner and thus host has been passed from Germany to Azerbaijan. After Ell&Nikki’s win in May last year many people were worried whether Azerbaijan could stem such a demanding event but most of them were convinced of Azerbaijan’s capabilities when it was announced that a new hall would be built especially for the contest. Now more and more people are worried about the quality of the organization for this year’s contest. Are we just prejudiced against Eastern, muslim Azerbaijan or are these suspicions well-founded?
The Image of the Host Broadcaster
Ictimai TV is the host broadcaster of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. In the past they have made headlines on our blog for changing dates and rules of the national final frequently. Last year only one artist was supposed to win the selection show, but at the end of the national final two singers were simply presented to the elite audience in a small theatre as the winners. (Otherwise Ell may have won by himself and Azerbaijan would have certainly had a better vocal performance).
Anna Rossinelli, the Swiss representative was invited to perform in the same national final, but almost didn’t make it there. The host broadcaster had messed up visa applications and more (Read more here). Back in February 2011 we closed this entry with the sentence: “The impression we get from Ictimai’s organizational skills (remember the semi-final, heat chaos) is not really favorable. Imagine Safura had won in Oslo and they would be organizing Eurovision…” . Maybe we weren’t so wrong?
Why is There No Venue?
The organizers in Azerbaijan had decided to build a new hall for the Eurovision Song Contest, the Baku Crytal Hall, is supposed to host the contest in May, but at the moment the constructions are sill in closer to the beginning stages than to a usable hall. However on 19 May 2011, organisers announced that they may use the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium which contains 37,000 seats, or the Heydar Aliyev Sports and Exhibition Complex.
The EBU wants to make sure that the hall can actually be finished before May before announcing anything officially. In a recent interview with Sietse Baker, he expressed his discontent about this situation: “We are following the progress of the venue at the Flag Pole, which is under construction. We will not take a decision until the end of January. Although it is challenging to work with three different scenarios at this stage, everyone involved is highly professional and consequently, it does not bother anyone.” He says everything is very professional, but if you read between the lines, you may see a different picture.
With no venue selected, tickets can obviously not be sold at this point. The problem for fans is, that they have to book flights and hotels soon enough to save money, but who books a flight if they don’t know whether they can actually pick up a ticket?
Why is There No List of Participants?
This problem may have less to do with Azerbaijan. Usually the EBU releases the list of the countries that will participate in the contest after Christmas, but this year they may still be in negotiations with several countries. Poland’s national broadcaster TVP had announced that they wanted to focus on other events, such as the Olympics and the EURO 2012 this year, and would thus not send an entry to Baku. There were rumors that the EBU would try to convince Poland to stay by offering them assistance in the broadcasting of other events and a cut in participation fees. (Read more here). The same may be true for Romania, which has still not confirmed its participation officially.In 2008 Latvia and Lithuania were going through serious financial troubles and had announced their withdrawal, but the EBU could convince them to stay. That year the list of participants was also delayed.
Another problem is Armenia. The country is Azerbaijan’s arch rival and effectively the neighbours are in a state of war. Under normal conditions Armenians are not allowed to enter Azerbaijan at all. Armenia still has not confirmed its participation in Eurovision 2012 due to concerns about the safety of the Armenian delegation. According to rumors Armenia will send an international star to Baku to make sure they achieve a good result. The EBU may still be in negotiations about these “special security measures” that Armenia requires. However, other rumors state that Armenia is simply waiting for the list of participants to appear and will then release a statement explaining their position. Meanwhile Armenian and Azeri media fight a battle of propaganda to discredit each other (Read more here)
Various other concerns have been voiced about the capabilities of Azerbaijan to host the event. Cash flow problems and energy supply have as much been discussed as the question of human rights violations (Read more here). Amnesty International severely criticized the Azerbaijani government in a report, due to its record of human rights violations and the overwhelming control the government of the Eurovision host country exercises over the press. The organisation especially criticizes the violent suppression of democratic protests in April and May. Facebook users have even been called “mentally ill” and have been arrested for criticizing the government in their posts. (Read more here). The BBC has also reported that hundreds of people were evicted from their homes for the constructions of the Baku Crystal Hall (Read more here)
Are We Prejudiced?
Now all the problems stated above are real and pressing. Many people have suggested that the constant criticism of Azerbaijan is simply an expressions of our underlying racism and prejudices against the Eastern and Muslim country we basically know nothing about. The former Head of the EBU, Svante Stockselius revealed in a documentary, that the situation before the 2005 contest in the Ukraine had been quite similar. In the end the Ukrainians were able to produce good show, nevertheless. Maybe it’s our lack of knowledge about the customs of Azerbaijan that make us fear the worst.
What do you think? Will Azerbaijan be able to produce a good show and will Eurovision 2012 be remembered as a good edition for the contest?
- Eurovision 2012: Sietse Baker Reveals Details
- Denmark: OGAE President Calls for Boycott of Eurovision 2012
- Armenia vs. Azerbaijan: The Feud Part 3
- Eurovision 2012: Allocation Draw on January 26
- Eurovision 2012: Venue Is Taking Shape
- Eurovision 2012: Hundreds of Families Evicted for Baku Crystal Hall
- Switzerland: Lys Assia To Perform at Eurovision 2012 After All?