From Iceland — Euro-­what? A Newbie’s Guide To Eurovision

Euro-­what? A Newbie’s Guide To Eurovision

Published May 6, 2016

Euro-­what?  A Newbie’s Guide To Eurovision
Photo by
Jóhanna Pétursdóttir

Eurovision. I’m new in town, so I don’t get it. But I’m an intern, so what I lack in skill and understanding, I make up tenfold in enthusiasm and desire to appreciate that which this country holds dear.

To mark the occasion, this year Bíó Paradís will host Iceland’s first formal, free screening of the annual European song competition’s semi-finals and finals on May 10, 12 and 14. This year’s 42 contestants will take to the stage in the most flamboyant and extravagant manner possible, presenting their original songs to a projected 600 million viewers. In my quest to understand Iceland’s Eurovision fever, I turned to the only person who could help this lost cause: Reynir Þór Eggertsson, a teacher, PhD holder, Icelandic television commentator and Eurovision expert.

Reynir Bíó

Eurovision is huge in Iceland. How do I make you understand?

The European Broadcasting Union reported 95.5% of television-watching that Icelanders tuned in to the 2015 Eurovision finals—when Iceland wasn’t even a finalist. Iceland boasts the only formal Eurovision fan club with more women members than gay men. Are you beginning to understand? “It’s a family event,” said Reynir. “One of the reasons it’s so popular here is that it’s a contest we actually can win. It’s not the biggest country, or the best-known country that’s the automatic winner… As far as I know, it’s only Malta that’s kind of the equivalent in general excitement.” Those small island nations, man.

Reynir’s been to see three of the Eurovision competitions live. And when I appear eager at the prospect of following in his advisor’s footsteps, my sage mentor enlightens me. “What you have to realise is that at the end of the day, it’s a TV show. So you might be better off sitting at home watching it on television than in the hall.” So no need to track down scalpers and book tickets to Stockholm (this year’s host)? “Well, I think it will be brilliant to watch it in a cinema. It will be like a party, but with a massive screen and a massive sound system.”

Camp Value

Sure, as Reynir says, it has a “camp value.” No one’s claiming it’s the Brit Awards, but Eurovision gave us ABBA. And Céline Dion. It’s a spectacular musical extravaganza, a year in the making, costing “basically the national budget of Iceland,” as Reynir puts it.

Greta Salóme will represent Iceland’s hopes and dreams this year, with her song “Hear Them Calling,” and Reynir prophesies we (remember at the beginning of this article, when I didn’t know what Eurovision was?) will reach the final. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up on the left side of the scoreboard,” he smiles. That means finishing in the top thirteen. Look who’s learning.

Bíó Paradís will have special Euro-drinks on sale, and throw an afterparty, complete with a DJ, following the finals. There’s no need to get tickets in advance. Seats for the free events will be first come, first served. But, well. With Eurovision fever gripping Iceland once again, you better show up early.

Bíó Paradís Showtimes:

Semi Final 1 – Tuesday, May 10 at 19:00

Semi Final 2 – Thursday, May 12 at 19:00

Grand Final – Saturday, May 14 at 19:00

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