Boom Bang a Blog Investigates: Does history prove that the UK has a real chance of winning Eurovision in 2013?
Still feeling a bit down? Bereft? It's been more than two weeks since the London 2012 Olympic Games came to a close and during that bit-more-than-a-fortnight, a large wodge of the UK floated about on a feel-good bubble as gold medals and positive talk about successful organisation of a major event rolled Blighty's way on a near daily basis. Of course, it's not over yet as the Paralympic Games are imminent - but as we wait between the two, poised for all the action to get underway in the same venues which rung out with cheers and tears around a month ago now, it's interesting to consider a neat quirk of fate which has befallen the UK's Eurovision chances in the wake of hosting major events.
Namely, at the Contest held the year after Great Britain has staged a major international sporting event, the act performing under the union flag has a tendency to win. Will history repeat itself at Malmo 2013? Well, let's examine each example a bit closer first.
The UK had waited 10 years since its debut for a Eurovision win. Admittedly, it happened when the BBC got the right act in the right year with the right song (Kathy Kirby could easily have been Britain's first Eurovision poster girl back in 1965 if she hadn't been faced with the insurmountable brilliance of Serge Gainsbourg's winner for Luxembourg) and nothing else really stood out enough on the night in Vienna to trip Sandie up on her sure-(bare)footed path to glory. And 1967 was a far more appropriate year for Britain to take the title anyway
Apologies to Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish readers but there remained a lot of people in these isles still a bit giddy at the extra-time prowess of Alf Ramsey's lads at Wembley Stadium in London the previous July 30. Sandie didn't need a dog called Pickles to find the Eurovision trophy before she could get her equally bare hands on it and, in many ways, it marked a high point of 12 months when Britannia genuinely could call itself 'Cool'. Sandie won the Contest on April 8 (even World Cup runners-up Germany gave her three of their 10 votes to prove there were no hard feelings) and around seven weeks later, on June 1, The Beatles released the seminal Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The union flag in its handily geometric segments was used as both global fashion item and national symbol while the influential tentacles of Carnaby Street were dressing the western world's dedicated followers of design.
So, major sporting competition held in the United Kingdom? [CHECK]
Followed by a victory at the following Eurovision? [CHECK]
Wouldn't it be great if the same trick would work again? We'd have to wait 30 years to test the theory again, however.
Despite Birmingham bidding for the 1992 Olympics and Manchester trying to take responsibility for either the 1996 or 2000 Games (and that won't be the last we'll hear of the city in this investigation), it took a while before the nod for hosting a Big Sporting Thing came Britain's way again. This meant that 1996 wasn't an Olympic year for Manchester but it was a footballing one for England in general. Euro 1996 was another successful organisation for the FA, who had just four years to prepare for the competition and saw the number of expected teams double from eight to 16. England and Scotland both qualified for the tournament and the hosts managed to reach the semi-final, losing to eventual champions Germany at Wembley Stadium, the same arena where a reversal of fortune had taken place three decades earlier.
It was upsetting for the English fans but perhaps more importantly for the UK (well, perhaps saying 'UK' is naive, I was at Glasgow University at the time and I'm more than aware of how English success is viewed north of the border), it was part of a glorious summer where our Eurovision entry topped the charts only to be knocked off the top spot by the home team's anthem from the other European tournament. Three Lions is up there with Back Home when it comes to soccer-related singles and it even hit number 16 in the German charts after the competition was over. Elsewhere, Blur and Oasis were still squabbling over who made the best music, Tony Blair was poised to bring Labour back to power after an 18 year absence from Number 10 and the term Britpop was bandied about globally. Heinz Baked Beans and Newcastle Brown Ale were items de rigeur in New York's trendiest grocery stores and in the middle of the maelstrom, a member of a band which had spent 12 years in the chart wilderness sat down to write a song marking the 30th anniversary of The Samaritans.
That song, Love Shine a Light, the anthemic UK entry which got all the things right that Give a Little Love Back to the World got wrong went on to Dublin the following May, just two days after Labour eased back into power with an overwhelming majority. Katrina and the Waves' majority in the final vote was a comparable one.
It all started with a football tournament not quite 12 months earlier then one anthem led to another. This time the English hosts did not win their own tournament but it still led to gold at the following Eurovision.
So, it looked like we had a successful, albeit expensive formula for taking the Eurovision title. Host a major global sporting event on British soil the year before and success was assured.
It's a pity that particular theory unceremoniously imploded five years later.
Now, let's get something straight. The Commonwealth Games, where Eurovision is concerned anyway, doesn't really count. The only nations both events share are Cyprus and Malta and the UK enters as the four home nations. So it's understandable that this particular celebration of sporting endeavour in Manchester didn't boost the British cache in Riga the following year despite it being a hugely successful occasion which was possibly the catalyst for London being awarded the 2012 Olympics. There were other international matters to be concerned about, such as the Iraq war, which wasn't making Britain especially popular on the world stage but when it comes to the events on a stage, it was the painful crowing of a duo from (it pains me to say it as it's my home city) Liverpool demolishing any positive qualities the mediocre composition Cry Baby ever had in those unforgettable minutes in Latvia's Skonto Hall which truly banjaxed British dreams in 2003. Our first ever nul points. We've come perilously close to getting that score since but we've yet to plumb those depths again quite yet.
I had to put this example in for fairness and balance but I'm treating it as a blip. There have been other UK-held Commonwealth Games during the Eurovision years. Edinburgh hosted in 1970 and 1986, followed by a fourth for Clodagh Rodgers in 1971 and 13th place for Rikki in Brussels in 1987. Cardiff organised them in 1958 - when it was still the British Empire Games - but this did precede the UK's first ever top three placing at Eurovision.
It has to be said, the Commonwealth Games passes the majority of European viewers by so they're not going to have any impact at the following Contest. Also, in 1967 and 1997, the UK entrant was a well-known name before the event took place and their songs were expected to do exceptionally well in the final shake-up on both occasions. The conditions weren't equal so I don't think this one counts. What do you think?
Which brings us to the future. London 2012 is past and was more successful than anyone dare dream. Danny Boyle's ingenious opening ceremony has won the British way of doing things the thumbs up from around the world (well, I haven't met many people who didn't like it) and the waves of good will heading this way during those 17 days of competition were palpable. Is it enough to see a particular Sports Event/Eurovision Win hoo-doo happen again? They do say such things come in threes.
If it is going to work, it can't just be with any old cack-handed attempt at a song.
Look at 1967 and 1997. It has to be performed by a known act (the BBC's thought processes from the past two years suggests this could happen again - although there could also be a national final with unknowns) and has to have a head of steam beneath it in the weeks running up to the final. It also has to be drawn in the last half of the show and the main performer either has to go barefoot or wear a second-hand blouse that cost about 50p from a jumble sale.
Can the theory pay off again? Is 2013 a more likely year to produce a UK winner because of the Olympic Games?
I'm signing off now as I have to write the Palace. If we can get Daniel Craig and her Majesty to parachute through the roof of the Malmo Arena seconds before the UK entrant starts to sing at next year's Eurovision final then, let's face it, that trophy is bolted on and it's London 2014.