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Things to know about Eurovision

Associated Press Associated Press 14/05/2016

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS WEEKEND'S EUROVISION SONG CONTEST

WHY STOCKHOLM?

Because Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, which won last year's contest. Aside from the glory of victory, the winning country gets to shell out millions of taxpayers' money to host the contest the following year.

Mans Zelmerlow, the hunky Swede who won in 2015 with the song Heroes, is co-hosting this year's show with Petra Mede, a Swedish comedian.

WHO ARE THE FAVOURITES?

Russia's entry has all the right ingredients for a Eurovision winner: a thumping techno beat, catchy refrain and a buff man in a tight shirt riding on an iceberg through space.

But don't dismiss France's upbeat anthem J'ai Cherche, or Dutch singer Douwe Bob's country-inspired tune, Slow Down, featuring a suspense-building 10-second pause. Australia, Ukraine and host nation Sweden are also among the bookmakers' favourites.

ARE THEY PERFORMING LIVE?

The Eurovision rulebook says: "Artists shall perform live on stage, accompanied by a recorded backing-track which contains no vocals of any kind or any vocal imitations."

The show will be broadcast live to an estimated 200 million viewers, mostly in Europe but also in China, the US and Australia. Should the live feed break down on Saturday, a recording of Friday's dress rehearsal can be used as a backup.

IS AUSTRALIA IN EUROPE?

Not unless you mean the racehorse that won the English Derby in 2014.

Nonetheless, Australia the country is competing in the Eurovision Song Contest for the second consecutive year. That's because the show is extremely popular Down Under, where it's been broadcast for more than 30 years.

But even if Dami Im, an Australian X-factor winner, triumphs in Stockholm, next year's competition would be held somewhere in Europe, co-hosted by Australian broadcaster SBS.

WHY ISN'T SPAIN'S SINGER SINGING IN SPANISH?

Originally, artists had to sing in their national language but since 1999 they are free to perform in any language.

These days almost everyone sings in English, to maximise the appeal across Europe: 39 of this year's 42 entries are performed entirely or partially in English.

Even Spain, whose language is spoken by 500 million people worldwide, will for the first time have a song performed entirely in English, a decision criticised by the Royal Spanish Academy.

WHY IS THAT MIDDLE-AGED MAN WEARING A TIARA?

Most of the die-hard fans dancing in front of the stage at the qualifying events this week had one thing in common: they were men. Of all ages and nationalities, joined in one big, rainbow-coloured brotherhood of questionable music taste.

The Eurovision Song Contest's cult following in the gay community helps explain how a bearded Austrian drag queen called Conchita Wurst could win the competition in 2014.

This year, the show is being broadcast live in the United States for the first time, on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cable network Logo.

WHAT'S THAT GIANT GOLF BALL?

Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Rome has the Colosseum. Stockholm has the Globe, a white hemisphere dominating the skyline.

Inaugurated in 1989, the 16,000-capacity arena has hosted ice hockey world championships, NHL games, the MTV Europe Music Awards and concerts by Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.

This will be the second time it hosts the Eurovision Song Contest, which also took place here in 2000.

DOES EUROVISION BOOST CAREERS?

Time for a quiz: Apart from bell-bottomed Swedish disco quartet ABBA (1974) and Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias (1970), which other best-selling global stars got their breakthrough at Eurovision?

Correct answer: None.

Canadian singer Celine Dion won for Switzerland in 1988 but her real international breakthrough came four years later with the theme song for the Disney film Beauty and the Beast.

While some Eurovision winners like Britain's Bucks Fizz moved on to successful careers in Europe, most were forgotten after a fleeting moment of fame.

Remember 1985 winners Bobbysocks? That's OK, no one outside Norway does.

L'ALLEMAGNE, DOUZE POINTS

The presentation of national voting results from capitals around Europe provide some of the most cringe-worthy moments of Eurovision, with awkward delays on the line and Hungarian jokes that just don't translate.

Each participating country awards points, from one to 12, to its favourite entries - they cannot vote for their own country's song. By tradition, the announcement is made in English or French.

This year the system has been revamped, with each country giving separate sets of points from a jury and TV viewers. The entry with the most points at the end of the night wins.

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