How Australia got addicted to pageant, followed by millions of fans of pajamas

It’s five in the morning in Melbourne. It’s Sunday May 23, 2021, and all of Australia is still sleeping. Finally, not all of Australia is completely: thousands of fanatics are already in front of their TV to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, taking place in Rotterdam (Netherlands), 17,000 kilometers away. Kyeema, 19, has invited some friends to sleep in her house and they are on her sofa, their eyes a little blurry. They perform the third awakening at dawn of the week. Before the final, they will have benefited from the two semi-final matches, Wednesday and Friday morning, and they will need the time difference.

This scene, Kyeema can really describe it, she’s been following Eurovision for ten years. “Nobody asks themselves, when it’s the Olympics, to wake up in the middle of the night to watch something happen. It’s the equivalent in music!” She assumes, far from being an exception in this country that sparked curiosity a passion for the famous Eurovision Song Contest.

“When people ask me why Australia loves Eurovision, I often say it because we don’t like to miss a party.”Josh Martin, president of Australian Eurovision Song Contest and head of entertainment at SBS, jokes one of the two public broadcasters in Australia. “The point moment, it’s so stressful! That’s what really caught my eye”“,” Recalls Hayley, who has been following the competition since 2000. Ruth, 55, rushes to answer: “Where is Moldova on the map? What is the capital of Azerbaijan? We know that!” She laughs.

Note approved by Jess Carnell, Lecturer in Humanities at the University of Southern Queensland (Australia) and Competition Specialist: “The fans themselves say it is fun! The important thing is that you come together and feel like you are part of something bigger. Our way of sharing is unique! You Europeans can throw a party. We put the alarm on and enjoy it in our pajamas. “

Australia has been following the event for nearly 40 years. Early in 1983, SBS broadcasted the contest offline, using comments from the BBC.

“Over the years it has become a tradition of watching with family and friends.”

Josh Martin, head of the Australian delegation to the Eurovision Song Contest

To franceinfo

“In the 1990s, a lot of students watched SBS and it became a classic.”As Jess Carnell says. So it becomes a festive weekend.

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The participation of the British candidate in 1996 Gina J., Of Australian citizenship, has already aroused the curiosity of locals. Since 2001, the country has had its own commentators, who visit the site every year. “Being part of an event that brings together many countries is very exciting. There is a feeling of connection and sharing with other viewers.”Jess Carnell evokes.

In 2014, in recognition of the country’s loyalty for years, he made aAustralian star Jessica Mowboy She is invited to Copenhagen (Denmark) to perform her latest song, Sea of ​​flags, During the break from the second semi-final round. The opportunity to showcase Australia’s passion for competition and to entice a new audience: “That moment, along with the much-publicized victory of Conchita Wreste, was a turning point for many viewers.Reassured Jess Carnell. They are starting to follow the competition more seriously. “

The following year, for the 60th edition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the regulator of Eurovision, decided,Call Australia Exceptionally, to compete in the Final, with another 26 eligible entries. “We were happy with the invitation. But it contained a lot of changes. Participate and vote, and that means broadcasting the show live at midnight.”Josh Martin remembers. “It was a dream come true”Ruth says.

Guy Sebastian, who was very popular on the island, was sent to Vienna (Austria). With Tonight againHe got a very good 5th place. Success convinced the European Broadcasting Union to once again allow the Australians to send in a candidate in 2016. But this time, there was no longer a question about the franchise: the country, like other competitors, must face the semi-finals. Australia still managed to qualify for the big Saturday night so far.

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In accordance with the requirements of the competition rules, SBS is responsible for broadcasting the three evenings every year on its antennas, supplemented with special programs. And the masses are there.

“In 2019, we reached a total of 3 million viewers. These are numbers that we are very satisfied with.”

Josh Martin

To franceinfo

That number is really impressive considering the country’s 25 million people. But Australian TV is thinking more. While until 2018, SBS chose its representative internally for the competition, the audience’s success led the group to stage a national final, as in France. “It is also an opportunity to expand our audience.”Solin, Josh Martin. “Australia decides (“Australia decides”) has been organized since then every year, except for 2021. Montaigne, the ruling winner, was automatically selected for not being able to represent her country last year.

“It’s a uniting event, because it’s our little Eurovision, without the stress of post-travel”Jess Carnell notes. Fans Nod: “It’s a way to make the competition known to fans of other Australian artists who participate. They find themselves discovering another universe.”Says Cooper, 20, a fan who lives in Brisbane.

The competition’s success also explains the diversity of the Australian population: “A quarter of Australians are foreign-born and a quarter are children of foreign-born. So half of the population is of foreign origin. Diversity is part of our identity, and it logically exists in our representatives and admirers.”Jess Carnell explains. The proof of this is that among the Australian fans France Info interviewed, Chris and Roth, both of whom were born in the United Kingdom, competed in their childhoods, before emigrating. The communities of Croatian, Finnish, Greek and Italian are also numerous on the island and have formed fertile ground for onlookers.

The various candidates in the country to participate in Eurovision are also representatives of the multiculturalism of society: Isaiah In 2017 et al Jessica Mowboy In 2018 of original origin, when Dami M.Second, in 2016, she is the daughter of South Korean immigrants. “SBS was created to be a multicultural network. Representing diversity in Australia is very important to us, it reflects our values. We cannot survive the blonde, blue-eyed Australian cliché.”Avance Josh Martin.

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MontaigneThe country’s representative for the 2021 edition is an active LGBT rights activist. The country will be represented, starting Tuesday, May 18th, in Rotterdam (Netherlands), during the competition’s first semi-finals. With his song Technicolor, Will have to face the preferred candidates in particular: Malta, Cyprus or Lithuania who are looking to the top ten according to Gamblers (In English).

But the 25-year-old singer will be following the competition from her home island. Australia is banning its citizens from traveling outside the country, in order to maintain the strict “health bubble” in place to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. “It’s very difficult, but we have no other choice.”Josh Martin regrets.

Don’t panic, Eurovision has everything planned. To ensure that the competition was held despite the pandemic, each participant was required to send the organizers at the end of March a video of their performance filmed under live conditions. If a participant cannot move or catch the virus, they will still be able to participate in the competition, thanks to this video. So Australia reserves every chance to win the competition.

However, Eurovision is not at the Sydney Opera House at the moment. Covid-19 or not, Australia’s participation undergoes a departure from the Eurovision tradition: if the country wins, it will not be the organizer of the competition the following year. Too expensive, too far, too complicated: “We’ll have to organize everything for us at night, it’s going to be complicated, even if we clearly want to win!” Josh Martin admits. Should Australia win, SBS teams will be consulted with EBU to select the new host country.

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