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Eurovision is back - here's everything you need to know about this year's contest

G’wan Lesley.

Image: PA Images

Updated May 18th 2021, 3:00 PM

AFTER POSTPONING LAST year’s event due to the pandemic, Eurovision is set to come back with a bang this week as the Netherlands hosts the 65th edition of the popular song contest. 

With Covid-19 very much still with us, the contest won’t be held in the same way as it has done in previous years. 

But there will be an audience in the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam as 39 countries vie for the crown. 

Ireland will be bidding for its 8th victory this time around and, after a relative drought in terms of success in recent years, it’s hoped our strong entry can make the final next Saturday night. 

Where is it being held? And, more importantly, how?

So, the aforementioned Ahoy Arena is hosting this year’s competition. Normally, it can fit just over 16,000 spectators.

However, due to the health protocols in place, there will be a maximum of 3,500 audience members allowed in the arena on the the night of the semi finals (tonight Tuesday 18th and Thursday 20th May) and the final (Saturday 22nd May). 

All audience members must have a negative test certificate no older than 24 hours before entry. They have designated timeslots to arrive, must wear a mask when moving from their seat and no standing is allowed.

Executive producer Sietse Bakker said: “The numbers have been scaled down considerably. Delegations are much smaller and most journalists will follow the Eurovision Song Contest from home this year in our online press centre.

“By testing everyone in Rotterdam Ahoy every 48 hours and getting artists to move within our ‘Safe Harbour’ zones, we want to keep the coronavirus out as much as possible.”

What are these Safe Harbour zones, I hear you ask? Well all crew, artists and press on site must have had a negative test before they fly and have quarantined for 5 days before departure. 

Once in the Netherlands, they’ve had to stay in their hotel, except when travelling to the Ahoy. 

Everyone is regularly tested then in a special facility next to the arena during rehearsals, the live shows and related activities.

In the event that a particular act cannot attend, due to Covid-19 restrictions in their own countries, for example, there are contingency plans in place. If this were to happen, each delegation has submitted a live-on-tape back-up recording of their song.

According to Eurovision, live-on-tape means “recording a song performed live on stage in real time (as it would be at the Contest) without making any edits to the vocals or any part of the performance itself after the recording”. It said there are measures in place to ensure fairness in this regard for acts using a live-on-tape version. 

Organisers have said that their plans are subject to change, depending on government guidelines. 

Bakker said: “We understand that extra caveat, of course. For that situation, we will of course keep the scenario without an audience at hand.”

However, having made it this far, it’s hoped the contest can proceed as planned.

What are Ireland’s chances?

Well, we do have quite a good song and act entered into this year’s contest.

Lesley Roy was supposed to represent Ireland at last year’s cancelled contest with the song Story of My Life. 

This year, she’s back again with Maps. 

To reiterate, it’s a decent tune altogether. But that’s not always mattered when it’s come to Ireland’s entries in recent years. We’ve only qualified once for the final in the last seven years. 

The bookies have us at 100/1 to win the whole thing. And only at around 2/1 to qualify from the semi final. 

But anything can happen. Best of luck, Lesley!

Source: Eurovision Song Contest/YouTube

Who should I be watching out for?

Among the favourites this year are Malta, France and Italy. 

Iceland would have won the whole thing if you could’ve carried over the songs from last year – but you can’t. 

Daði Freyr is still in with a good shout this year with his song 10 years. But he would’ve certainly won if last year’s competition had gone ahead with his song Think About Things (I urge you to listen to it right now, if you haven’t yet).

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In Ireland’s semi final tonight, we’re up against 15 other countries for 10 slots in the final. 

Malta will be hoping Destiny can bring them glory with the song Je me casse.

Romania will be hoping Roxen remembers to turn up with the song Amnesia. Lithuania is heading to the Discoteque with The Roop while Australia’s Montaigne is bringing Technicolour to the audiences of Europe. 

Ireland will be up 7th on the night, with all countries plus Germany, Italy and the Netherlands able to vote in the first semi final. Voting from viewers will determine 50% of the outcome while professional juries in each nation will also have 50% of the say. More details on the rather convoluted voting system can be found here.

When we’ve hopefully qualified for the final, we can watch Thursday’s second semi final in peace. 

In this semi-final, Estonia Uku Suviste is hoping he can be The Lucky One, Greece’s Stefania is hoping for the Last Dance while Poland’s Rafal is simply looking for The Ride. 

Fair play to him. 

Portugal’s entry is Love is On My Side by The Black Mamba while Serbia’s Hurricane is going Loco Loco in Rotterdam. 

When given this assignment, I listened to them all. I urge you all not to do that, as there are some truly terrible songs in there. 

As for who’s gonna win? It’s anyone’s guess. I think the Icelandic lad is in with a good shout anyway. Watch out for France doing well too, having qualified automatically for the final. 

Where can I watch it?

Right, so. 

RTÉ 2 has you covered for the first semi-final tonight - Tuesday 18 May at 8pm

The final’s on then on Saturday 22nd May at 8pm on both RTÉ – with Marty Whelan – and BBC – with Graham Norton. 

Come on Ireland, etc etc. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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