Eurovision 2012: No List of Participants, No Venue, No Tickets… No Hope?

  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)

Other problems

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?

26 thoughts on “Eurovision 2012: No List of Participants, No Venue, No Tickets… No Hope?

  1. I think that azerbaijan is capable of hosting the ESC or even the olimpics, the problem is that they are going too fast and they cannot plan things as they should, that’s why they are delaying so much, they just want to make things in 3 secs. I think it is better for Italy, Sweden, or even Ukraine to host the 2012 contest.

      • I hope after the event is over, all the doubts proved to be groundless :-) Also, you should understand that Azerbaijan needed a venue like that. Due to absence of it, we could not have concerts fir any stars. ECS was just a catalyst, a reason to build such venue. Now, we have concerts of Shakira, J LO, Rhianna etc lined up in autumn – just for starters. And, Azerbaijan DOESN”T have cash flow problems at ALL – it’s one of the most successful countries in the world currently, economically, with development pace ahead of almost anyone else. Just watch Azerbaijan grow and glow :-)

  2. It’s driving me insane now. I can’t plan, I can’t book time off properly, I can’t budget at all – no idea of potential costs. Will we get lucky with package deals run by the fan clubs or will it be expensive last minute flights and no chance of hotels? & last minute visa applications (which will be impossible without a hotel??)

    I’m sure the actual event on the night will be amazing and look great, but the logistical stuff in the run up for fans trying to travel there… it really isn’t too good so far is it? I’m getting more and more concerned and annoyed to be honest.

  3. Since I lived in Istanbul for some years when I was a boy and love Turkey a lot, I do not think that I am prejudiced against Eastern or Muslim countries. Moreover, I was among the (probably a bit too naive and pc) positive and optimistic fans who were convinced that Azerbaijan would give us a great show after Ell & Nikki had won. I had thought that a country that was so eager to win ESC in order to present itself as modern in the best way possible to the rest of Europe would give us spectacular (perhaps a bit megalomaniac) shows in May 2012. Even when they announced that they would build a new venue I still thought that they could make it because the authorities in Azerbaijan do not have to bother with licensing procedures, objection periods, citizens’ protest campaigns etc. like authorities in other countries do (I know what I am talking about because I live in Stuttgart … perhaps you have heard of the Stuttgart 21 mess on the news …).
    Unfortunately, ESC 2012 seems to be an utter mess atm, and the logistic problems for fans wanting to go to Baku cannot be helped anymore. It is already very, very late, in fact too late to comfortably plan a trip to a country that is unknown to most fans and not that easy to get to. Perhaps, we will get glamorous shows with only very little international audience in May … If I was a nasty guy, I would suspect that the delay in selling tickets is strategy because without too many foreigners present it will be much easier to send an immaculate image of Azerbaijan out to the world on TV. Only God knows where all those fans will go in the evening, whom they will mix with, what they will say and which ideas they might get into the heads of Azerbaijani citizens! The possible dynamics triggered off by thousands of ESC fans of all ages, shapes and colours flooding beautiful Baku could be quite risky and only very difficult to control (and impossible to control without getting bad press abroad). If I was a nasty guy, I’d say that the Azerbaijani authorities are in a terrible dilemma because you cannot have an international event with international audience and media without transparency. If you invite them, they will try to find out what is really going on in the country they visit. And they will tell everyone once they are back home.
    I hope that the nasty guy I am not is totally wrong!

  4. I very much like the fact that you show at the end of the post that there’s an inherent prejudice and bias to how we all feel about Eurovision and Azerbaijan. I think that makes this a very adult and well thought-out post.

  5. Russia and Ukraine organised it,I don’t see why Azerbaiajan can’t.I think not only readers but also the writer of the article above should get rid of their prejudice to sound fair!

  6. Azerbaijan is what is. They won and they should host the 2012 edition. I support that decision. However, time is passing by and it is becoming evident that they new venue will not be ready in time. Are the alternative venues ready? Are there plans to make them ready in place? Will the country manage to cope with arrival of the fans?

    “If I was a nasty guy, I’d say that the Azerbaijani authorities are in a terrible dilemma because you cannot have an international event with international audience and media without transparency. If you invite them, they will try to find out what is really going on in the country they visit. And they will tell everyone once they are back home. I hope that the nasty guy I am not is totally wrong!”

    Togravus, I am afraid that the nasty guy (read realistic guy) in you (and in most of us) is right, especially when it comes to what you wrote in the sentences I pasted above.

    Good luck.

  7. I’m still against the participation of Azerbaijan and Armenia. I still think it’s unfair to ban Lebanon for 3 years, just because a written law forbid Israeli media. And here, we have a war in the contest, before the contest, during the contest, after the contest and outside the contest. Azerbaijan will of course make a good ESC, thanks to German, French and British money, and still they don’t respect human rights, but who cares, no one will notice because they will put Azerbaijan in the best light during the contest.

    • Exactly if azerbiajan cant cooperate with the participation of armenia in their country they should not be alowd to participate in ESC or host it . EBU need to call RAI for italy to host 2012

      • Azerbaijan cooperated, and nothing would happen at all, security would be perfect etc. It’s Armenia which never cooperates – not in this case nor in the peace talks they constantly sabotage!

  8. There are big problems with there hosting skills according to this! I think the only reason we have no list of participants is beciase of Armenia – a freidn of mine said that Poland want out for a long long time! ;sadface; :-) lol

    Plus is there still a chance Morocco will return? :-p

  9. A country such as Azerbiajan that violates human rights and forces people out of their homes just to build this arena for eurovision should not deserve the honour of hosting the eurovision, it should be given to Italy seen as they came 2nd and actualy care about their people. Plus if azerbiajan can’t provide security for the armenian deligation it shouldnt host eurovision simple as. I’ve realy gone off Azerbiajan since these reports have been emerging and hope this year we see them crumble and get the worst result.

  10. There is more and more discontent with Azerbaijan hosting this, with just 4 months to go they seem disorganised to say the least, they may have chucked money at their last attempt but it shows that it cant buy everything (unlike the boxing lol)

  11. It’s one thing to hold a blind bias against Azerbaijan just because it’s a Muslim and non-EU country, it’s yet another thing to do one’s own research and see Azerbaijan for what it really is. And I encourage everyone to go and do your own research!

    Here’s a list of things about Azerbaijan that raises my doubts whether it is a country fit to host the Eurovision 2012, and whether I should travel there:

    1) It’s pretty much an openly racist Apartheid regime. One need to hear what the Azeri TV and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev himself says about Armenians. You might think you are in 1930s Germany. Yes, now they are turning Baku into a giant theme park – a cheap illitation of Dubai, but nowhere in Baku will you find out about the Pogroms against the christian Armenians in these same streets of Baku just 20 years ago, when Armenians were hunted in their own flats, thrown out of their balconies, burned alive, buried alive, beaten to death etc, while the authorities didn’t even bother to intervene. Armenians once (beginning of 20th century) constituted 40-48% of Baku’s population – now there are none. But that’s in the past. What’s in the present is that you will find no mention of these events in modern Baku – it’s bloody history is being erased and rewritten. The president of Azerbaijan routinely gets away with warmongering threats and statements like “Armenians have something missing in their brains” or “Armenia is an illegitimate state built on Azeri territory” or “Armenians didn’t exist 70 years ago”. Yes, to those who know anything about Armenians or ancient history, these statements may be funny and absurd – it’s as if Borat suddenly became a president of a banana republic. Those Azeris who voted for Armenia in Eurovision, were later jailed and questioned. If you were born and raised in Europe and are a citizen of any European country, but your surname ends with “ian” or “yan” (as most Armenian surnames do, but also many European surnames do as well, like people from Cornwall in Britain) or if Azeri authorities suspect that you might have some Armenian “connection”, your visa will be rejected. The racist thinking within the general public is encouraged and the new generation is raised in hatred and bigotry. Just as South Africa, when it was Apartheid, was boycotted by the Olympic committee in 1960s, so should Azerbaijan be boycotted not only from hosting Eurovision, but also from participating in it, until the time when their stop their actively racist policies. The racist policies of Azerbaijan are in direct contradiction with the spirit of Eurovision.

    2) Human rights in Azerbaijan is among the Lowest in the world. Ilham Aliyev is pretty much a modern day dictator who inherited this country from his father. The Aliyev clan has been ruling Azerbaijan, on and off, for the past 40 years. Think of North Korea regime, but with no trace of socialism and which considers itself as part of Europe. Right now they are kicking people out of their homes just to build a venue for one night show. There is no freedom of assembly! If few people gather for a small protest, they are immediately brutally beaten by the police and imprisoned. Bloggers or journalists who might say anything even mildly critical or satirical of Aliyev’s regime are being imprisoned and given the most absurd sentences. Free media simply does not exist in Azerbaijan!!!

    3) Azerbaijan views this Eurovision 2012 as nothing more than a good PR campaign ahead of a bloody war that it has been planning. Now that the petrodollars have began pouring in, Azerbaijan has been arming itself with $3-4billion per year military budget, and it wishes to re-start a bloody war, which it lost in 1994. Their stated objective in this war is to ethnically cleanse the Armenians of Karabakh (a de-facto independent and much more democratic state than Azerbaijan). Eurovision is going to be a great display of how “European” and “civilised” Azerbaijan is, so that we European TV viewers won’t believe the kind of atrocities that the Regime is planning against the civilian population.

    4) It is ranked as being one of the most corrupt countries in the world, along with Zimbabwe etc.

    5) Baku is a very expensive city. Because of the massive inflow of petrodollars, the economy is hyperinflated – things cost more than they should, and you don’t get a good value for your money.

    6) If you step just outside the tourist designated areas, you will find that Baku is one of the filthiest cities in the world. City’s rubbish disposal system has not been adequately operational since Soviet Union collapsed. I won’t even speak about the radioactive “Black Belt” that surrounds Baku – you can Google and read all about it. Baku’s shoreline is definitely not a swimming place, unless you fancy swimming in a water that smells like oil, while the oil rig sticks out of the sea right in front of you.

    7) The wealth disparity in Azerbaijan is among the worst in the world. Yes, there are some filthy rich families in Baku who made their fortunes from being loyal to Aliyev clan and oil. But most of the country is living in dire poverty. Azerbaijan is planning to spend a wopping $1 billion on eurovision 2012 – an even that normally costs a few tens of millions in other countries, while much of its population has no adequate housing, and is below the poverty line. This $1 billion could go a long way to provide very basic needs for some of those Azeris who live in the kind of poverty that we cannot even imagine here in Europe.

    8) I have not heard of any project in Azerbaijan that was adequately completed on time or on budget. That’s due to it’s long standing track record of corruption and how things are done in Azerbaijan.

    These are some of my key reasons why I’d boycott Azerbaijan for Eurovision 2012.

    • 1) “Christian Armenians” sounded like they were targeted because of their religion, however one of Azerbaijan’s best friends – emotionally and politically is Georgia, who are strict Orthodox nation. There’s also Russian and Ukrainian population of the country. Those pogroms in late 80s started after the cutting down of Topkhana forest by Armenians, rape of Azeri girls in Armenian hospital, deportation of Azerbaijans from Armenian regions and followed killings of Azerbaijanis in Askeran clash. Weird enough in so-called sumgait pogrom, a person who killed 6 Armenians was an Armenian himself. “there are none” Armenians? actually there are, very few but still. how many Azerbaijanis do live in Armenia? one? two? Have to note that not any citizen of Azerbaijan is allowed to enter Armenia. do they? no. Yet again not any Azerbaijani pogrom were violent as much as Khojaly Massacre which was done by Armenians against to Azeri civils. singers with Armenian background such as Filip Kirkorov have had hold concerts recently as well.

      2) ESC is not a political contest. it’s no way to make a politic out of it. actually it’s better Azerbaijan being hosting the event, so the human rights violations of the government will get to known by more people and will bring more attention.

      3) all international laws, UN and stuff everyone supports Azerbaijan’s position. So it’d be incredibly pointless to have a war.

      4) again, corruption exists in Armenia, Greece, and Bulgaria too. what it has to do with Eurovision?

      5) early to say.

      6, 7, 8) again, seriously have nothing to do with ESC. no need to mislead people.

  12. I think, concerns that Azerbaijan cannot cope with the contest are unsubstantiated and unfounded.

    Azerbaijan has great experience in holding large (large-scale) sporting events. All great international sporting events in Azerbaijan have been held successfully and at a high level.

    At the moment, additional works that aim to develop existing infrastructure and create new one are being carried out. All these ensure that, guests of the Eurovision will be able to feel themselves comfortably in Azerbaijan.

    Also I would like to emphasize that BBC’s reportage related to eviction of residents allegedly because of the construction of the Crystal Hall is not true, because the Crystal Hall is being constructed far from residential houses, on the seashore, which was especially drained for that reason and there have not been residential houses in this territory.

    As for Armenia, last year Azerbaijan granted all necessary guarantees of security at the state level to participants from Armenia and I can’t understand what do they want after that? All the more, Armenian politicians, public figures and sportsmen had also already been in Azerbaijan for many times.

  13. Dan, there were no “pogroms” of Christian Armenians. Stop making fake statements. As to genocide, please, do not forget to mention the torture and killing of pregnant women and children in the village of Khojaly by terrorist Armenian and their Russian buddies. If you want to speak up the truth, be true to yourself first. Cheers.

  14. Dear Don,

    Firstly, Eurovision is not a boxing rank to punch each other’s face. It’s one of the most important concept to create friendly enviroment among European nations which each country has equal right and opportunity to show its talent with the best music of a year in its land.

    Secondly, It’s absurd to compare the power and condition of Azerbaijan with Armenia’s whether
    it’s deserved to hold the concept or not. It’s without saying, if Armenia had been a victor last year in Eurovision, how it would have organized the concept and settled the guests in the capital of Armenia with low qualified hotels, with no sanitary,no cleanliness, no sufficient restaurants and so on….. In terms of high cost life in Baku, it’s pretty natural in all mega touristic cities of the World.

    Getting the name of Don, it has sparked much debate whether it s the nickname of envious tongued armenian , trying to spot Azerbaijan with banal and muddy lies . Be frank, dear Don .

    As the last comment, The gates of Eurovision is open for all, including Armenia with complete
    security for the participants of it as it used to be all the time . Take your challenge .We’ll be glad to see you. Good luck.

    Best wishes

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