The result means Sweden will have to qualify for next year’s contest through the ignominious back door of the semi-finals.
“I did my best,” said a tearful Stenmarck afterwards. “I hope Sweden will forgive me.”
Throughout the week, Swedish papers had reported one lack-lustre Stenmarck rehearsal after the other. And leading Eurovision figures such as SVT’s Christer Björkman had been confidently predicting that Sweden didn’t stand a chance against the passion and organisation of the east European and Balkan countries.
All these pressures were reflected in a pallid performance by Stenmarck, light years from the bravura he showed in winning the Melodifestivalen in March. Taking the stage after a confident, cheeky chappy number from Denmark, Stenmarck and his four dancers seemed to disappear on the vast stage. He donned an Elvis-inspired costume for his ‘Las Vegas’ song, but there was little energy and his few dance moves were hesitant.
It was only after he successfully caught his trademark flashing mike stand that he seemed to relax and pick up the pace.
The longer the interminable voting went on without a point for Sweden, the more depressed SVT commentator, Pekka Heino, seemed to get. Finally, after about a dozen countries had awarded their points, came a six from good old Finland. “Kitos, Suomi,” intoned an audibly relieved Heino. Thank you, Finland.
After much whingeing in the media about ‘buddy voting’ by other countries, the Nordic countries were just as bad as anyone else. 14 of Sweden’s 30 points came from Scandinavian neighbours and Sweden awarded their highest points to Norway, Denmark and Greek Swede Paparizou.
After the show, Björkman didn’t hold back in his criticism of just about everybody, not least the man he was supposed to be there to support, Martin Stenmarck:
“He sees Eurovision more as an experience, a buzz. His focus was on Melodifestivalen, where success gives long-term rewards in Sweden. Martin wasn’t that bothered about being relegated to the semi-final group next year, but Lena Philipsson was scared stiff last year.”
If Stenmarck’s commitment beforehand could be questioned, his devastation afterwards seemed genuine enough:
“This feels like the worst night of my life. This is worse than I could ever have imagined. I came here to win and finished 19th. What a humiliation.”
Overall, the Ukrainians put on a spectacular show – apart from the embarrassing slapstick of the famous Klitschko boxing brothers.
“Eurovision eeees vrrry seemilar to baaaaxing,” said Vladimir. “Weeeeell, leeeet’s hope there are noooo knockouts!” replied last year’s winner, Ruslana. Quite.
There were strong folk influences in many of the songs and a lot of the early acts seemed to be competing to have the most / biggest / craziest drums. Elena Paparizou’s winning entry was the Britney Spears style ‘My number one’. But even this had an odd folk dance inspired section in the middle, amidst the glossy pop sheen and slick choreography.
Paparizou, who moved to Athens from Sweden a couple of years ago and came third in the competition in 2001, has been lauded all week in the Swedish press for her ultra-professionalism. She promoted her song in 14 countries prior to the final, a tactic which seems to have paid rich dividends and which the Swedes hope to learn from next year.
The twelve points Paparizou received from Sweden virtually sealed her victory and she screamed joyously at the camera “Heeeeeeeja, Sverige!”. Go Sweden! After the show, she told GP:
“I hope to be able to do this for Sweden one day too. I’m not saying that you necessarily need me, but it would be fun because I love Sweden.”
Perhaps even more embarrassing for Sweden were the solid performances from Norway and Denmark, which traded places for much of the evening in the top ten. In the end Denmark’s soft reggae boy band style thing and Norway’s Kiss-inspired glam hard rock had to share ninth place – and a ticket direct into next year’s final.
Meeanwhile, there’s a risk that Sweden won’t even be on the scorecard. The country has a glorious Eurovision history and failure to qualify from the semis in Athens would leave an entire nation wondering what on earth to do with Saturday May 20th next year. Sweden has participated in every Eurovision Song Contest final.
“Bloody hell,” said Stenmarck, on being told of the situation. “I’m sorry for whoever has to do it next year.”
Whoever that may be could learn something from the Moldovan entry, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers wannabes who gave royal, adrenalin-fuelled entertainment with their insane ‘Granny beats the drum’. The performance featured an elderly Moldovan in a rocking chair merrily beating a drum.
The Local’s douze points, for what it’s worth, went to Croatian crooner Boris Novkovic, who sang about wolves dying alone to the accompaniment of a bagpipe. Now that’s a song for Europe.