7 Things you probably didn’t realise about Eurovision

Another year is over, another winner has been announced and another Eurovision hangover has begun to subside. This is a time of year when a number of people reflect on the competition that was and the one that is to come, so I thought I would share some insight.

In 2016 I was a member of the creative team for Iceland’s Eurovision entry and learned a great deal about the competition. Since then I have found myself answering lots of questions to Eurovision peeps about what it’s actually like to be there and how things really work during the largest song contest in the world.

I’ve narrowed this all down to 7 things many people probably didn’t know about the beloved contest. Keep in mind these thoughts are strictly my own and do not reflect on anyone I worked with in the competition at all. You may find them interesting, it may also mean I never work at Eurovision again but anyway here goes …

1. IT’S A MARATHON.

You’ve seen the three-minute performance on the stage of the host country. There’s lights, pyrotechnics, wind and key changes. You love it or hate it or even make witty tweets about how awkward it sounded when the singer was trying to say ‘winner’ and it came out like ‘weiner’. It all happened in the blink of an eye but what you probably didn’t think about is how long ago the journey to that mispronunciation began. For many of the entrants it starts as much as nine months before. A number of the participating countries hold national selection competitions, a bit like mini Eurovisions. In Iceland this competition is held around February, but the eager hopefuls must have their songs in for selection around October. Once they’re into the competition, they have a few months to come up with their performance and then they compete. When we worked on ‘Hear them Calling’ for Iceland in 2016, the first meetings about how to present the song were in early December. It’s a strange feeling for all the team members to win the national selection, because there is literally almost no time to celebrate. As soon as we found out we were going to Sweden, we were quickly in meetings again to work out the next step. By the time Greta Salóme sang her first note in Stockholm, the core team had been working on the project for almost six months.

2. BUDGET BABY.

Each country pretty much foots the bill for their own performance and of course not every country has the same budget. The only thing when it comes to staging that is free is …. wind. Lights, projection, fire, pyrotechnics, all of that costs a lot of money. When you see a solo performer on the stage with very little bells and whistles, sometimes it’s a creative choice, but sometimes it’s because that’s what they could do with their budget. So think about that the next time you call a performance bland.

3. IT’S A BLOGGY BLOGG WORLD.

Back when I was a child and even into early adulthood (not revealing too much about my age here), there was almost nothing you could find out about the performances before the actual show. I remember that the closest I could get to knowing anything about what would happen was buying the CD and listening to the songs one by one. That has changed dramatically. Now when an artist has been selected to represent their nation at Eurovision it’s a bit like a presidential campaign. There’s not just the official concert, there’s party concerts in other countries to prepare. Each one comes complete with press, well I wouldn’t exactly call it that. I noticed at the pre-parties and the actual competition that the number of actual journalists was very small. The world of Eurovision is now run by bloggers.

As I stated above, these opinions are my own and do not reflect anyone I have worked with, but I noticed that everyone, in a way, is terrified of them. I found it peculiar watching seasoned performers pander to ‘Bob’ from ‘Erovisionfandom.org/jpeg’ a blog that probably gets one click a year. A number of the bloggers are uber fans who make the pilgrimage every year to the host country much like salmon spawning up-stream. Most of them are people who have an amazing joy for what this song contest represents. As a fan of Eurovision I quickly realised that I was not as much a fan as I thought. I remember a conversation I had with one of the delegates from Estonia. He too was Australian and asked me how I felt about finally working at the competition. I said I felt like a bit of a fraud. He asked why and I told him that before heading there I thought I was a super fan. Then I said, ‘but there are people here who can tell you what the backup dancer to the right of the performer for the Netherlands was wearing in 1973.’ His response, ‘she didn’t have a back up dancer.’

Once upon a time artists like French singer Isabelle Aubret , who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1962 with the song “Un premier amour”, “only” had to worry about their performance in Eurovision. Not anymore.

The bloggers hold so much power when it comes to the 24 hour news cycle we now live in. They can make or break the chances for a performer to get through to the final and most people in Eurovision land know it. This brings me to the unfortunate side of the bloggy blog world; the mean girls. There are some bloggers (who I will not name for legal reasons) who are just terrible people. You know, those people who were picked on in school (like most of us) but instead of dealing with their self-esteem issues in order to become self actualised adults, they put themselves in positions of power so that they can in turn bully others without actually realising they’re doing so. Yep these people sometimes have Eurovision blogs. I sat through countless interview sessions where I saw them ask energy filled questions about the acts and the message of their songs, telling the performer how amazing it all is. Then the next day in a vlog update, pulling it all apart, basically telling their viewing audience not to vote for that song.

The other negative side effect of the blog machine is that it’s not really informed journalism. Facts aren’t really checked and sometimes information is just plain wrong. I was once video interviewed backstage. They asked me what my involvement with the show was, I answered and then they wrote an article stating that I said that I was pretty much the only person doing anything. The weird part about that was they also posted the video where I didn’t say that.

The bloggers are also invited into the dress rehearsal which I find weird. I guess it makes for great ‘media’ buzz, but sometimes it can be reported drastically wrong. In 2016 during the first dress rehearsal, the TV station of the host country used incorrect graphics and cues for us because of time constraints. Our entire team knew about that and decided to use the rehearsal to just focus on everything else. The bloggers were present and in turn they reported to millions of fans that the Icelandic performer’s choreography was completely off and that they were disappointed in how the performance had translated from the Icelandic stage to the main competition. If they had asked any of the team, we would have corrected them but they didn’t. The result was an immediate shift in the betting odds against Iceland.

4. BLOCK VOTING AND TALL POPPIES.

It’s never a surprise when Greece votes for Cyprus or Belarus votes for Russia. So many people think it’s because they want to support their neighbouring country. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen but often we forget what it’s like to live in a particular area. If you live in Greece, you’re probably going to be listening to similar music to those in Cyprus. It’s what you’re used to. When you’re not allowed to vote for your own country and there’s a song that tickles your musical senses culturally it’s kind of a no brainer. Another effect I knew nothing about until I worked in the competition was what I call the tall poppy effect. I grew up in Australia, a nation that loves the underdog. I’ve often said the easiest way to become successful in Australia is to not really look that successful. This is because of Tall Poppy Syndrome. The innate need to support those that you feel need the help and cut down (in a manner) the tall poppies so that the others can enjoy some sunlight. In the competition there isn’t really a cutting down of the poppies but there is sometimes a heightened need to support those who you feel might not make the cut. You can only vote so many times. You have a selection of songs you love and in that selection, due to media coverage and the feeling that there are particular favourites world-wide, you make a decision. ‘Well that country is definitely going to get into the final, so they won’t need my help. I’m going to vote for the underdog.’ I believe this is in part responsible for those times when a country everyone thought would get through doesn’t and then the next day the internet isn’t happy.

5. IT’S A GAY SMORGASBORD.

I have never seen a larger congregation of gay men in my life. In each Eurovision there is a special pop up Euroclub. A club where all attendees can dance the night away to only Eurovision songs, while possibly getting the chance to brush shoulders with their favourite Eurovision stars. It’s also pretty much a gay bar. I can only imagine the amount of chlamydia and syphillis that is exchanged at a competition. I actually feel like there are possibly new STIs born at every competition. This years chlamydia I will call the Ukraine Strain. Never in my life have I opened grindr and seen literally 400,000 men within 20m of me. The night Iceland performed in semi final one in 2016 and didn’t get into the final, I retreated to my hotel room to shower and prepare to celebrate. I opened my grindr and was surprised to see a great deal of messages. Nowhere in my profile did it say that I was working with the Icelandic team, but up to 20 men had sent me condolence messages. My favourite was one that read, ‘Amazing work tonight, I’m so sorry you guys didn’t get through… wanna come cry on my dick?’

6. YOU CAN’T PREDICT ANYTHING!

Costume – Check

Amazing performance – Check

Flawless vocals – Check

Hundreds of thousands of people wanting you to get into the final – Check

None of this means shit at the end of the day. There are so many variables that it’s nearly impossible to predict how it will all go. I think many of us can say that from the start of the hype to the end of the competition we couldn’t have predicted Jamala would win. That’s part of what makes this competition so riveting to watch. The performers I’ve met who have got the most out of Eurovision are the ones who understand this and simply set out to get the message of their song across.

7. POST COMPETITION SUCCESS NOT GUARANTEED.

After what all the performers go through, we would like to think that Eurovision launches them into an amazing career stratosphere but it’s not always the case. Sometimes they just go back to their jobs. I can think of one performer in particular who went back to university and finished a pharmacy degree and has since not really performed. Sometimes their career is simply to be the only person in their country who is allowed to go to Eurovision (I’m looking at you Valentina – one day my love – one day). The truth is that those who manage to have a successful career after Eurovision usually work incredibly hard for it. Sometimes they have to spend years traveling all over the world to just do that one three-minute song people know them for, sometimes they have to completely reinvent themselves, and sometimes they just go home and get a day job again. There’s also thousands of other people in the competition not on the stage who go home and have to start over. Eurovision is a bubble, when you’re in it you can feel invincible, then when it’s over it can leave you feeling like you have no idea what to do next. For me, the most incredible feeling was watching graphics that were largely put together on my computer in my bedroom in Reykjavík on a screen in a massive arena, and knowing that it was also being watched on TV by 200 million people. I got home from the competition and then went back to work. I remember I was sent a message by a blogger asking what I was up to since the competition. I told him, ‘currently making burgers in a bar.’ His response was ‘Why?’ I told him that I have rent to pay and working in Eurovision is an amazing experience that is incredible to have on your CV, but it doesn’t mean something to everyone.

The Eurovision song contest taught me so much about what people are capable of when in a team. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my life to date and I wouldn’t change anything about it at all. Well maybe if I could, I would have tried to bang Douwe Bob – he did kiss me after all.

Main photo: A part of a photo of Salvador Sobral by © Roger Dewayne Barkley, EuroVisionary

Note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and forum participants on www.gayiceland.is do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the editorial staff of www.gayiceland.is or official policies of the editorial staff.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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