Illustration courtesy of ESC Bubble

Eurovision: A Song Contest That Brings Nations Together

Eurovision is a time for intercommunity and integrity, allowing European students to share their national pride and culture to the wider community.

Apr 28, 2018

On May 12, the feeling of community and kinship will blaze across Europe as millions of families gather in front their televisions to support their countries. The friendly atmosphere, food and music that are an inherent part of the evening make it a much anticipated event every year. One might think it is some annual sport championship like UEFA Champions League that everyone is eager to watch. However, it is a different kind of competition — a song contest.
In the early fifties, the directors of the European Broadcasting Union held a meeting with the goal of creating an entertaining show that would reunite Europe after World War II. They introduced the idea of creating Eurovision, an international song contest that would be broadcasted live simultaneously across all countries of the EBU.
In 1956, when the first contest was held in Switzerland, only seven countries participated. As satellite television had not even existed yet and only few households had TVs, the broadcast reached a relatively small audience.
Taking place every year ever since, the Eurovision Song Contest has expanded to 56 EBU countries including Israel, Morocco and, recently, Australia. Today, Eurovision remains one of the longest-running and most popular television programs in the world. It attracts approximately 180 million viewers annually, including many NYU Abu Dhabi students from Europe who grew up watching the show.
“I watched Eurovision for the first time when I was 10. Although Spain almost never wins the contest, families and friends always come together to have a dinner and view the show,” shared Jaime Blanco, Class of 2021.
The huge success of Eurovision lies in its simple yet unique concept. First, the representative singers perform their songs on the same stage. After the performances, viewers from all of the participating countries vote for their favorite song, which must be different than their country's. After all the votes are counted and combined with the jury’s points, the winner is announced and the winning country receives the privilege of hosting next year’s contest.
Although the contest is not widely known in the UAE, European students at NYUAD brought with them the tradition of celebrating diversity through music.
“My freshman year, when Ukraine won, we gathered in the Living Room, around 30 to 40 students from different countries and watched Eurovision together on a large screen,” recalled Yana Chala, Class of 2019.
One additional value of Eurovision is the opportunity it gives to the nations to represent their culture and music to the wide audience.
“[Despite] being a small ... nation, Armenians have a disproportionate impact on the present’s pop culture and show business. I find it very attractive that Eurovision creates a stage for all the European countries to bring trends from their home and share them with all,” explained Gugo Tadevosyan, Class of 2020.
The diversity of NYUAD’s student body makes the process of watching Eurovision on campus even more exciting. Seeing their countries perform in the contest, students experience a spike in their national pride.
“All my friends turned to me in awe when in 2015 Iveta Mukuchyan — the Armenian Beyoncé — came on stage. It made me feel proud of my people and my own contemporary culture,” said Tadevosyan.
Apart from outstanding production, another factor that makes the contest extremely popular is the competition itself. Like in sports, bookmakers determine the odds for each country’s place in the contest, trying to predict the winner. The uncertainty around who is going to take the Eurovision trophy keeps the viewers excited about the results of a grand final show.
Watching Eurovision in the same room with people from other participating countries heats up the tension and takes the competition to another level.
“It is a strange balance of competition and collective excitement. When Ukraine and Russia were on the margin of a victory in 2016, you had different groups cheering for each country moving forward [in the results table] — this usually doesn't happen at home. It adds positively to the experience,” Chala said.
After Portugal’s victory in Ukraine in 2017, this year’s Eurovision will be held in Lisbon. A total of 43 countries will participate in two semifinals and 26 in the Grand Final, which will take place on May 12.
Julia Tymoshenko is Social Media Editor. Email her at
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