Analysts say Brexit vote should make only marginal difference and eye-catching entry could deliver best result in years
Dancing gorillas, glittering divas, yodelling rappers and simmering political discord come together for the annual kitschfest that is Eurovision on Saturday, when the UK will discover whether Brexit means nul points .
The 62 nd anthem tournament, hosted by Kiev, presents a public forum in which Britains EU neighbours could wreak very public revenge a prospect that has been noted by the prime minister.
With Theresa May admitting that in current circumstances Im not sure how many referendums well get, Brexit is being set up as the excuse should Britain continue its recent dismal record in the event.
Perhaps disillusioned by that bad run, the UKs continued participation in Eurovision would be in doubt if the public had its route: according to a recent YouGov survey, 56% of people would leave the contest, against merely 44% for remain.
But according to William Lee Adams, editor of the wiwibloggs website dedicated to Eurovision, the pattern may be about to change. I could see the UK cracking the top 10 and having its best result in years, he said as bookies slashed the odds against the UKs entry, Lucie Jones, after the rehearsals.
Jones, 26, a former X Factor contestant, has said she is not really thinking about Brexit and her giant glass shard and outer-space LED backdrop have been hailed as the UKs most impressive staging to date. She looks like a beautiful mermaid oozing pain in a giant seashell, as if shes recreating Botticellis Birth of Venus, said Adams. Brexit was not the problem, he argued; Britains dismal past ratings were due to sub-par acts.
Brexit should make merely a marginal change at most to the result, according to Gwendolyn Sasse, director of the Centre for Eastern European and International Survey in Berlin, who has analysed Eurovisions political voting patterns. It couldnt get much worse for the UK. But then, Germany is not doing well either. Western European countries are usually outdone by the eastern Europeans in recent years.
Historically, British contestants have been awarded the most phases by Ireland, followed by Switzerland which, as an EU outsider itself, may not consider Brexit an issue. France ranks third in terms of phases awarded to the UK, though in recent years its votes have gone elsewhere. Along with Norway, it also is the country to have given the UK nul phases most often, on 27 occasions.
Bearing in mind that some countries have not participated every year, it is Luxembourg, which last have participated in 1993, that emerges as the UKs greatest ally based on the average number of points per tournament. Ireland is in second place, followed by Malta, Austria and Israel.
The political underpinnings of the competition have again been highlighted this year after Ukraine banned Russias vocalist, Julia Samoylova, because she had previously performed in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.
Russia is refusing to broadcast the contest, and Ukraine whose winning song last year was about Stalins mass deportation of Crimean Tatars is now subject to an investigation for violating the spirit of the contest and may well be banned itself next year.
But Sasse pointed out that while “the member states national” juries of Russia and Ukraine were reluctant to champion one another entry last year, the peoples polls proved cultural, imperial and geographical identity overrule national politics, with elections running both ways.
Similar patterns emerged from the former Yugoslavia. There appears to be a differentiation between national politics and people, which is quite uplifting and solely in the spirit of the event, she said.
Adams said Italys Francesco Gabbani, who performs with a dancer in a gorilla costume, could appeal across borders. Hes goofy yet sexy and he could charm the gasps off a nun, he said, though in rehearsals the staging was a bit too busy and the gorilla gets lost in it all.
Portugals Salvador Sobral is another riding high in predictions, described by the BBCs commentator Graham Norton as appearing so startled and astounded to be anywhere other than his own bedsit.
Adams said Russias absence had done nothing to stop the Technicolor juggernaut of Eurovision, even making life easier for technicians and organisers. They dont have to worry about deploying anti-booing technology during the reveals, or the risk of anti-Russian violence against Moscows act, he said.
Steve McCabe, an associate professor at Birmingham City Universitys business school, who has analyzed Eurovision economics, predicted Brexit would not make a tremendous amount of difference to the UKs result. Maybe instead of being third from bottom it will be second, or last.
Additional reporting by Emma Kennedy
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