The streets are empty. There are no cars on the roads. Apartment windows are dark. Have aliens abducted the people of Linköping? No. Eurovision is on.
I venture out to find a public viewing. Swedish love for Eurovision is legendary, so as I trot along the overcast streets you can understand why, firstly, I’m intrigued to see how Swedes celebrate, and secondly, why I expect to see pubs overflowing with people wearing nothing but flags and Viking horns. Alas! Pubs are scattered with civilised chatterers and empty seats. There’s not a Swedish flag in sight. Apparently public drunken exuberance is not every country’s way of celebrating a potential national victory.
After a jolly round the streets, I see a bar boasting five TV screens and go inside. Warmth and the absence of a stale beer stench hits me. I hover. A big screen at the other end of the room plays football. By the bar, three people buy drinks and casually consult the other four screens, which show Eurovision. Everyone else just sits chatting across tables.
What is this madness!?
I’m not exactly a Eurovision fan, but I was hoping to make a big step of integration tonight and embrace the contest with a bit more enthusiasm than my British friends. I tread the soft red carpet to the other room, wanting to rule out the possibility of a viewing going on in there … Ruled out it is. Perhaps Swede-Eurovision-mania is just a myth … ?
Eurovision Party – woo!
It’s official: my date for the night will be a cup of tea. I chuckle and scurry back home to fire up YouTube’s live stream.
So it begins. Who doesn’t love hyper knee jiving and flourishing slow-mo hand dancing, all in carnivalesque get-up? A few acts and inspirational shout-outs later and I’m wondering if I can actually take any more. But to be a real Swede, I tell myself, I must become an avid fan of Eurovision. I commit to the screen.
So you’ve heard of Melodifestivalen?
Swedes consider Eurovision knowledge akin to Swedish history. Any good quiz will have a section on Eurovision. Sweden prepares for the song contest obsessively every single year. Can you not detect the country’s love vibes raining down on our entrant, Frans, as he performs? Not a calendar month passes where the selection process for Sweden’s entrant or preparation for the Eurovision final isn’t in full swing. The selection competition is called Melodifestivalen, and there’s even a version for kids. Each year, thousands of hopefuls are whittled down to thirty-two. These contestants compete in the televised semi-finals until a winner is crowned five weeks later. And this year’s winner is so proud to be representing Sweden that he can’t stop grinning! His understated performance delights me enough to take a bad selfie.
Melodifestivalen gains national coverage throughout the year and is now Sweden’s most watched TV show. Compare Melodifestivalen to the UK’s low profile one nighter selection show, and it’s no surprise the UK hasn’t won since … 1997 … (really!?)
Despite this, my heart warms when I see the UK’s entry. Granted, it doesn’t render me outright weepy like the Ukraine’s, but Joe and Jake’s joy is pure sterling.
Thank you Sweden!
Little lingo tributes are being hurled around everywhere (tack så mycket, god kväll, and—or was that Gaelic, Ireland!?). I wonder if Sweden appreciates the world’s efforts or is just amused. Swedish comedian and host, Petra Mede, does a good job of accepting the often fudged up pronunciation graciously.
Eurovision in Sweden vs the UK
I conclude that the empty-ish pubs and apartments probably sing of Sweden’s devotion to the Eurovision Song Contest. Whether Linköping’s residents are partying on the streets of Stockholm, cheering in the arena itself, or voicing opinions at massive gatherings in elusive apartments, I have to assume that my fellow Swedes are making merry of this beloved event—just like I am (only with slightly less crowd).
On the other hand, I think that the general British attitude towards Eurovision is summed up by Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi’s skit. Why the producers decided that this would be appropriate to include as part of the show beats me, but overall, the skit is accurate. Tell me if I’m wrong; Brits think that Eurovision is good entertainment, but they can’t help wanting it to be over quickly. I don’t think the rest of Europe shares these feelings (or welcomes the depreciating humour of this clip at such a party), but it’s enough to make me chortle and feel like I’m partying with the Brits tonight! I have my crisps, my English tea—in fact, the only thing missing is a scattering of sarcy comments from Graham Norton.