Eurovision - Centre Stage

Eurovision: The final word from Malmö

Eurovision: The final word from Malmö
With two weeks of Euromania done and dusted and with southern Sweden nursing a Eurovision-sized hangover, The Local's Patrick Reilly takes one last look at the highlights, the lowlights, and Malmö's time in the limelight.

Malmö is nursing a Eurovision-sized hangover after the annual popfest came, saw, and pretty much conquered the capital of Skåne. As the arena is dismantled, the city is coming to terms with its staging of the event that has put it on the international map once again.

Getting the gig to host Eurovision was the shot in the arm that Malmö needed after generating headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years. Shootings, anti-Semitism and violence were frequently associated with the city so the organizers needed to put on a good show.

And boy did they do that. Albeit, a stripped back Eurovision which bore all the hallmarks of austerity and Swedish thriftiness.

Despite the odd grumble from SVT staff, most were happy to be down south. Of course it helped that Stockholm had the ice hockey and Gothenburg the horse show leaving Malmö to bask in Eurovision’s reflected glory.

Commonly – and rather annoyingly – known as the third largest city in Sweden it was Malmö’s modest size which was perhaps its biggest asset. Europop fans, journalists and the like were pleasantly surprised at how compact the place is and you didn’t have to look far to feel the Eurovision fever.

IN PICTURES: See Patrick’s pictures from the two-week event

Large banners with the Eurovision 2013 butterfly symbol were dotted all over the city and dominated the pedestrian high street. A giant glitter disco ball was fitted in central station and schlager hits blasted out from cafes and bars.

Even the local train (pågatåg) ended their display of destinations with “may the best song win” while some local daycare centres staged their own mini Eurovision song contests.

When Ireland’s representative Ryan Dolan went to Bladins International School to perform, well, the place erupted at having a Eurovision star in the building. Malmö embraced the contest billing it as the big event of the year rather than just a circus which pulls into town and then clears off.

Seasoned Europop nuts remarked that the host city felt like a proper Eurovision location after the excess of Baku last year. Cutting costs was a key goal of the organizers with the budget a fraction of the fortune spent in Azerbaijan 12 months ago.

Indeed, one estimate is that Malmö 2013 left a receipt $18.7 million compared to Baku 2012’s $1 billion.

At times though the penny pinching went a bit too far. Many reporters were hacked off that Euroclub – the party centre for Eurovision type people – doubled up as the press centre for the first week with less than ideal working conditions.

Once the media centre, which was also a TV studio for SVT, opened for business things improved for the travelling press pack of over 1,000.

It was obvious, to this reporter at least, that the media centre was at its busiest during the daily fika where traditional Swedish treats were served. Most journalists were so eager to experience it that they went back for another chokladboll two/three times…

As for the contestants, well they charmed the press and fans, in particular Bonnie Tyler and eventual winner Emmelie de Forest who seemed to revel in the relaxed surroundings. Highlights included Tyler getting reporters to sing her eighties hit Total Eclipse of the Heart, and how the local media hung on de Forest’s every word and impressed them with her command of Swedish… for a Dane anyway.

To suggest that Malmö erased all aspects of its negative image in the space of two weeks would be naive and frankly, untrue. For instance, the Israel sign which appeared with all of the participating nations in a Eurovision signpost was ripped off. When it was replaced it was promptly removed again in the space of a day.

An anti-Israel protest was carried out before the second semi-final at the arena and Israeli fans were advised not to wrap themselves in their national flag. The organisers surely breathed a sigh of relief when they failed to make the final.

As for the music, the participants’ favourite was Netherlands while the press adored Greece and the bookies got it right with Denmark. Malmö was widely praised for having put on a solid if not a spectacular show when Euroclub closed its doors for the last time at 6am on Sunday morning.

Perhaps the last word should go to Linda Martin who returned to Malmö where she won Eurovision for Ireland way back in 1992. “The city has changed so much but the people are as gracious and kind as I remember them,” she told The Local.

Malmö residents will gladly settle for that. Oh, and the chance to lap up Eurovision once again when it makes the short trip across the bridge to Denmark in 2014. Only 361 days to go!

Patrick Reilly is The Local’s Eurovision correspondent in Malmö. Tweet him questions if you like.

Follow Patrick on Twitter here

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