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Welcome to Eurovision - A Euro-sceptic free zone
Being introduced to the Eurovision Song Contest is like learning how to do cryptic crosswords: you need an experienced hand to guide you and help you get the most out of the experience. Dear Reader, you're in luck.
In spite of, or maybe because of, Australia's inability to vote in the competition, the culture-starved hordes from the southernmost tip of this great southern land can't get enough of all things Eurovision. Venues throughout Melbourne are frocking up and throwing open their doors to all comers to celebrate this unique musical, sartorial and political phenomenon.
The musical credentials of Eurovison are hard to overstate. We all know that Abba and Celine Dion burst onto the world stage via this sequined and sparkly path, but when Great Britain wheels out such stellar talent as 75 year old crooner Engelbert Humperdinck (2012) and this year's 61 year old songbird Bonnie Tyler, you know you're in for a wild ride.
Did someone say sartorial? We need go no further than the 2012 Bulgarian entrant Sofi Marinova, who distinguished herself by wearing white thigh boots and a gladiator belt. As one memorable tweet described it - Bulgarian Power Ranger Meets Wonder Woman. Pure Eurovision.
Every year, the voting politics of the competition are blamed for the loss of the 39 non-winning countries. One glance at the Eurovision rule book is enough to confirm that this is a highly orchestrated event, with nothing left to chance. Having said that, there is a (small) place for sentiment in this cut-throat event; 2012 host country Azerbaijan's entrant Sabina Babayeva was placed fourth in what could only have been a show of good manners. A great outcome for a country that was, up until then, best known for its human rights abuses and for having the second biggest flagpole in the world.
Looking back over the results of Eurovisions past, a pattern emerges of what it takes to win. Here are some tips in no particular order:
Have just one name
Give the singer an instrument (2012 was the year of the violin and the grand piano. Props to little Georgia for the canny use of a white grand piano)
Sing in English
(Over) Use of Pyrotechnics
Plenty of wind machine usage
Elderly peasant women
The rules of the Eurovision drinking games are fluid, but are largely predicated on the list above. Thanks in part to Georgia, the 2012 contest was a bonanza of sköll-worthy moments, with nary a sober party goer in sight on finals night.
If you can't sort yourself out a party, there are plenty of other options. Rug up and head to Fed Square with hundreds of your about-to- be new best friends or find yourself a Euro-friendly hotel to watch it on the big screen. For those lucky enough to get themselves to Malmö in Sweden this year, ticket prices range from AUD$124 for a semi-final to AUD $213 for the final.