BRAMA, May 27, 2003, 9:00 am ET|
Voting, for a song
By Tony Leliw
It is often said that you find out who your real friends are in your hour of need.
So, it came as a bit of a surprise that Ukraine was saved from the humiliation of a nul points scorecard by an interesting bunch of neighbours and friends, at its debut performance of the 48th Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday (May 24).
The contest, representing singers from all over Europe, held in Riga, Latvia, was dominated by nations either being spectacularly nice to their past enemies like Turkey giving points to Greece, or the Balkan states like Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia topping up each other’s marks to keep themselves out of the relegation zone.
With Ukraine being the newcomer, it was difficult to ascertain who would be dishing out their votes to a country still wrestling with its own building blocks of statehood.
Past pundits have speculated the contest as being more political in its voting than its attempts to find a catchy tune with popular European appeal.
A nail-biting scenario therefore ensued when voting commenced and Ukraine verged perilously close to the precipice of no return.
Had the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs let us down by not stacking up enough new-found allies to boost our tally? Would our multi-lingual golden boy Oleksandr Ponomariov, dressed in white suit and designer stubble, not scoop a few points with his English song and Spanish title - Hasta La Vista?
The musical maestro with the help of a theatrical artist bending her torso to the point that from one camera shot it looked like her toes were caressing his shoulder, held his nerve and managed a performance of historical proportions that made Kuchma and country proud.
Russia broke the ice by announcing that its trusted jury would give its Slavic brother Ukraine eight points, while votes from Poland were 10, Israel 4, Latvia 5, and Estonia 3.
Poland gave Ukraine more votes than Russia, although Ukraine awarded its top marks to Russia amid audience boos. The two Baltic States and Israel sadly didn’t figure in Ukraine’s votes.
Ukraine was quite happy to make new friends by handing out its chips to Sweden, Turkey, Portugal, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Belgium, and Romania.
United Kingdom came last in the contest of 26 entrants, watched by an estimated 150 million people. It did not award any points to Ukraine, but its one saving grace, as BBC television commentator Terry Wogan pointed out was that a lot of UK supporters from its Embassy in Kyiv were there on the night cheering Oleksandr on.
Ponomariov was not expected to win by the bookmakers, but he earned more than a respectable 14th place on the night.
Tony Leliw is a London-based journalist whose articles have appeared in respected publications such as the London Evening Standard and The Times, as well as news services in Ukraine and the U.S. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org