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article imageEurope’s biggest musical contest prepares for Saturday's finals

By Andrew John     May 28, 2010 in Entertainment
Last night saw the second Eurovision Song Contest semifinal, held in Oslo, Norway, in which the last ten countries qualified for Saturday’s final in the same city.
Eastern Europe demonstrated that it continues to send excellent artists to the popular musical extravaganza, with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine all qualifying for Saturday’s final. Cyprus, Denmark, Ireland and Israel also went through.
Last night’s opening performance was from Lithuania, with InCulto’s “East European Funk”. Ewan Spence, of the Stage, described them as a male version of Bucks Fizz, who won the contest for the United Kingdom in 1981 with “Making Your Mind Up”.
Referring to the famous ripping-off-of-their-skirts routine of the female half of the British foursome, Spence says that “disrobing can never be anything other than exhibitionist and a bit tacky. Add in silver sequins and you’re looking at a row of tents in a field with Sid James and Barbara Windsor [of Carry On … films fame] hosting the contest rather than Haddy, Erik and Nadia. In other words, just a little bit camp – and the perfect opening act.”
Unfortunately for Lithuania, the voters were not convinced, and Lithuania failed to qualify. And, of course, Britain hasn’t won the contest since Bucks Fizz’s triumph
In total, 25 nations will compete in the final of one of the world’s most popular and most watched events. The first semifinal – which took place in Oslo on Tuesday – saw ten countries go through. The winning entries were from Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Iceland, Moldova, Portugal, Russia and Serbia.
100 million viewers
The other five countries are Britain, France, Germany, Spain – who are guaranteed a place in the final by virtue of their funding the event – and the host country, Norway, which as the winner of last year’s contest, with Alexander Rybak’s folk-inspired ballad “Fairytale”, is also guaranteed a place.
The annual contest is watched by an estimated world television
From Russia with song – Dima Bilan  winner of the 2008 contest
From Russia with song – Dima Bilan, winner of the 2008 contest
Wikimedia Commons
audience of more than 100 million people, and the winner gets to host the event the following year.
For the first time, the voting for the Eurovision semifinals and final carried out by a 50–50 combination of the public from across Europe and specialist judges.
Each semifinal chose from a shortlist of 17 countries.
Eastern Europe
The Eurovision Song Contest first took place in 1956, when seven nations took part. It has since evolved from an elegant black-tie event into an annual music extravaganza.
According to the Stage, last night’s competition was widely considered the weaker of this year’s two semifinals: “Of the acts that qualified, bookmakers predict only Belgium and Greece will finish in the top 10.”
Among the stranger of last night’s acts was Poland’s entry, in which their lead singer, Marcin Mrozinski, was tempted by writhing women holding apples in their mouths, and the Vegas-style floorshow choreography of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s “Jas Ja Imam Silata”.
With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, there was a sudden increase in numbers, with many former Eastern Bloc countries queuing up to compete. Russia, who won the event in 2008 with Dima Bilan’s “Believe”, hosted the 2009 contest.
More about Eurovision, Bucks fizz, Rybak, Sid james, Barbara windsor
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