Kristin Ay

JUDGING BY how much attention is devoted to the contestants and national qualifications, the Eurovision Song Contest has an important place in Finnish cultural life. Nevertheless, compared to their Nordic neighbours, the Finns’ take on Eurovision is modest and down to earth.

Norway’s Eurovision fever is obviously in full swing right now, and Norwegian internet sites like eurovisionnorway.no are quite confident that they can win twice in a row. Their song is also leading the polls as the best Nordic entry. Sweden actually named Norway its strongest opponent (and vice versa, according to Norwegian bloggers).

This year, Denmark produced an enormous qualification show soaked in glamour. The contest appeared to be designed as a celebration of Denmark and its fantastic music. The magnitude of the event, with spectacular special effects, was not a bit short of the actual Eurovision final.

“Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was an amateur contest for many years. But since 2009, DR (the Danish national broadcaster) has tried to give the competition a facelift and make it more professional,” writes Michael Kjær from esconnet.dk, the biggest unofficial Eurovision portal in Denmark. “The Danish music industry still views Eurovision as second-class music. The songs do not bust the charts afterwards. Still, the Danes love the competition, and the viewer ratings are high.”

In Kjær’s opinion other Nordic countries are more open-minded about Eurovision, but Sweden definitely has the most serious and celebrated show: “Melodifestivalen is huge. The songs shoot to the charts afterwards, and artists and songwriters have a commercial interest in taking part in it.”

True, nothing can compare to the efforts that Sweden puts into Eurovision. Every quarterfinal of the lavish qualifications is staged in a different city, and the final voting consists of the points given by an international jury, the professional Swedish jury and telephone voting.

“Swedes in general are very passionate about our Melodifestivalen,” says Pierre from Linköping, who has been writing a Eurovision blog called Schlagerexperience since 2006. “In Eurovision we are spoiled by good results from the past and always expect our song to win – which of course doesn’t happen, which in turn always leads to great disappointment.”

The splendour and seriousness of Swedish Eurovision qualifications can be seen in the number of blogs and fun sites, including one created by a group of blokes from Birmingham. As they write on their Schlagerblog: “We love schlager (…) and want to be Swedish, but we have to put up with living in the United Kingdom.”

This year Sweden also enlisted its own Hollywood star Dolph Lundgren, Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, as one of the hosts of the show. He sang (poorly), danced, played drums, smashed a couple of wooden planks to pieces with karate kicks, and crushed blocks of ice with his fists. He was magnificent. Sweden should just arrange some singing lessons for him and put him on a bus to Oslo. He would be a smashing hit.

Katarzyna Herd