No, Eurovision is NOT the Olympics of Music

Journalists. Broadcasters. Acts. Please stop calling Eurovision “the Olympics of Music.”* It’s not!

“But” you say “It’s countries competing against each other! Just like the Olympics!”

Yes, it’s countries competing against each other, like the Olympics. Or the Ryder Cup. Or the World Cup. Or other sports competitions I don’t know about because I like Eurovision and being inside vs. sports. But that’s where the comparison ends. And to keep the comparison going beyond that is a disservice to your artists.

How does one win an Olympic medal? In most situations – MOST – it’s due to a measurement of performance against a strict set of criteria – speed, number of goals, difficulty of routine. There is an objective quantifier that is used to set first place apart from second place.

“But,” you say, “Eurovision is the same thing! The person with the most points wins the show!”

And yes, the person with the highest combined jury and televote score wins, but unlike the Olympics (most of the Olympics! Figure skating judging scandals exist) there is no objective criteria for awarding those points. A person can vote for a song because they think the singer is cute. Or because their child is begging them to vote for a particular act. Or because they’re a member of a diaspora and want to do the home country proud. Or – and I know this is weird – they are voting for a song because they genuinely think it is the best song. And while juries are supposedly more objective, that is not always the case!

Comparing Eurovision to the Olympics implies that the song that wins is objectively the Best Song. It is not! It’s quite often a Very Good Song, one that I’d want to listen to over and over again. But it is not definitively the Best Song.

So many things impact voting. This year, there are a lot of bands, and by the time Band X plays with what could be the best song of the year, the viewing public may be sick of bands. Or maybe Band X has the misfortune to go right after Croatia or Sweden and the audience will still be reeling from those performances. Or maybe Band X has a hot TikTok moment that causes new people to vote for them. The winner of Eurovision is a reflection of a particular set of circumstances for a year, a night, a performance.

And I worry about acts that are approaching this like the Olympics, like an event that can be conquered simply by training harder than anyone else. An act could spend every day with personal trainers and singing instructors and choreographers and still lose because of conditions outside of their control.

I want acts to do their best, certainly, but doing your best and not winning is not a failure.

Rather, acts and broadcasters need to embrace the fact that they are at Eurovision, and look at the next two months as an opportunity for fun. The Eurovision whirlwind is a chance to gain diehard fans and win over people who may not like your song by generally having a good time with the whole circus. Examples of this are Gustaph’s Instagram reels, Mae’s TikTok clapback at the critics of her pre-party performance, and Blanca Paloma, who is just treating every day as a chance to sing at the merest hint of a request to sing. (That is, if you say “Hello Blanca Paloma” she will respond with “EAAEAEAEAAAAEAAEEEAAA” and we will all love it).

And if acts persist on making the comparison to the Olympics? I’d ask them to think about the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Today, no one remembers the gold medalist in ski jumping, but everyone remembers and loves Eddie the Eagle, the guy who came last.

* Today, this is subtweeting San Marino RTV and Wild Youth, but it applies every day of the year.

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