The live broadcast of the final of the Eurovision Song Contest is the most popular non-sporting event in Europe, with over 100 million viewers.
I was first moved by the Eurovision in 1974, when ABBA won the contest with Waterloo. Over the following years, the contest developed into true fandom. In the 1970s, the Eurovision Song Contest was still a window into the wider world of music. There were at the time basically three types of music programmes on Finnish television: the Syksyn sävel song contest in the autumn, a dance programme on Saturdays called Lauantaitanssit, and the highlight of the year, the Eurovision Song Contest.
I remember being excited in the spring over the selection of the Finnish representative, and mailing postcards for the vote. Spring culminated with the live broadcast of the contest. The whole family sat transfixed in front of the TV set, and I always recorded the broadcast onto a compact cassette. We then played the cassette throughout the summer, until the tape disintegrated.
ONE IN A 100 MILLION
With its big orchestra, the audience dressed in their finest and the compères hosting the show in French and English, the Eurovision Song Contest gave an impression of a grand musical event, one in which I wanted to participate some day in some capacity. To this day, when I hear the signature tune and the contest begins, I still get goosebumps. I am one of the 100 million people who participate in the event.
A SOCIETY OF EUROVISION FANS
Eurovision also moved many other fans in Finland, and a club was founded for them in 1984. As membership grew, the club, known as OGAE (Organisation générale des Amateurs de l’Eurovision) Finland, was finally entered in the register of associations in 2004. The club has currently almost a thousand members. Started by Finnish Eurovision fans, the organisation now has branches in nearly 40 countries. Almost all countries participating in the contest have their own local OGAE organisation.
For the fans, the Eurovision Song Contest is not merely a music competition. The Final is preceded by two so-called Eurovision Weeks, bduring which artists and fans arrive in the host city. The participating countries pitch their songs, and fans follow them around. The atmosphere becomes tense with excitement as we inch towards thenFinal, and every fan is convinced
that he or she knows who will win the contest. Every year, more than 2000 fans travel to attend the event as well as an equal number of reporters, making the contest a major social and media event.
A DREAM COMES TRUE
I personally travelled to see the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in Stockholm in 2000. My dream had finally come true. Since then, I have attended the contest every year.
The dream, shared by me and many other Finnish fans, of winning the contest finally came true in 2006. The song was not my favourite of the candidates, but in the Final I supported Lordi 110 per cent. I remember sitting in the auditorium and watching the points being counted. I still could not believe it. When the song got maximum points for the third time, my detachment turned into excitement, and the premonition that Hell might indeed freeze over that May night in Athens became reality. The celebrations went on into the small hours of the morning. Once again it was great to be a Finn.
The Eurovision Song Contest gives people permission to raise their own country to be the best. And even if it is not quite successful, no matter – it is, after all, the Eurovision Song Contest.
EUROVISION IN KIASMA
The contest stays alive throughout the entire year. Every year OGAE Finland organises competitions, a Eurovision cruise, Eurovision discos, karaoke nights and a pre-screening of the contest, where Finnish fans evaluate the songs.
This year the pre-screening will be held in Kiasma on 21 April, when Kiasma becomes a Eurovision centre. Many national clubs organise similar events, with fans attending from all over. The 2011 Eurovision cruise had fans from 12 countries, with over 1000 participants!
For me and many other fans, Eurovision is a lifestyle. We are moved and we are united by Eurovision.