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Eurovision fever heats up in Austria

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Eurovision fever heats up in Austria
Conchita Wurst, winner of ESC 2014. Photo: APA (epa)
10:15 CET+01:00
With six months to go there is already huge interest in the forthcoming Eurovision 2015, with demand for tickets expected to surge when they go on sale in December. But questions remain as to whether former USSR countries will run their own contest.

In May 2015, carefully selected performers representing dozens of countries from Europe and beyond will descend on Vienna to show the world their talents.

Tickets for the performances will start at €30, and go up to €300 and higher for the best seats - but that won't include food, according to Austrian broadcaster and host ORF's General Manager Alexander Wrabetz.

The tickets will go on sale in mid-December, slightly delayed from the originally planned date of mid-November.

The only tickets available currently on the Internet are counterfeit, so buyers are warned to purchase their tickets only from an official source.

A portion of the tickets have been reserved for international fans, many of whom are expected to travel to Vienna in May to support their country's artists.  Malta and Sweden have already begun to announce their lineups of contenders for the contest.

A call went out earlier in November for volunteers, who will be invited to an audition for 700 coveted places in various support functions.

There will be approximately 100,000 official tickets for a total of nine shows, with the final being the most sought-after.

Wrabetz confirmed there will be "no free tickets" for anyone.  Most of the major sponsorship packages have already been sold, although a sponsor for catering for the expected 1,600 international journalists is yet to be signed.

Ideal Host City

Jon Ola Sand, the Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, said Vienna is looking like an ideal host city. 

"It's great that the ESC returns to the heart of Europe. Vienna has the perfect infrastructure for such an event, and especially with the town hall, a ready-made venue", he said.

Additional work is being done to highlight the cultural side, with Vienna's many museums getting involved in the event.  

"At the same time we also have high quality cultural events such as the Wiener Festwochen," said Vienna's Councillor for Culture Andreas Mailath-Pokorny (SPÖ). The Festwochen runs from May 15th until June 21st so there will be some overlap with Eurovision. 

In general, the city is hoping for "a change of image," said Mailath-Pokorny, who also hastened to add that Vienna has made a budget commitment of approximately €12 million. "This is something new - that represents young Vienna."  Denmark's own experience shows that Eurovision can be very expensive to host, with a major overspend making 2014 the second most expensive ever.

"Strong, positive" images will come not only from the federal capital, but from the whole of Austria, said Petra Stolba, Managing Director of Austria's Advertising. The advertising value of the event is expected to exceed "several hundred million euros". Tourism is also expected to benefit, although Denmark experienced controversy about inflated claims over the impact of Eurovision.
 

The new theme artwork.  Photo: ORF/Eurovision
 
Visual Identity
 
This week, ORF released the ESC branding.  Known as the theme artwork, it's a continuation of the slogan Building Bridges, and is shaped like a sphere that interprets the theme of a bridge in a visual language of connections and encounters that continuously form and reform. 
 
The wave shape also symbolizes being united in diversity, which is intended to reflect the diverse nature of Europe and Eurasia.
 
"It is a great logo, a strong sign with recognition value and endless possibilities," said Jon Ola Sand.

"With this graphic identity we have presented a contemporary, professional entertainment design. A big advantage of the sphere is the versatility because it is suitable for both dynamic screen design as well as analogue use," ORF's Alexander Wrabetz said.

The theme art will be used everywhere, from staff uniforms to on-air graphics and merchandise.

Even though the Eurovision Song Contest has had a logo since 2004 - the word Eurovision with a heart in the middle - the European Broadcasting Union encourages the host broadcaster to come up with a theme art that is specific to the event that year.

In related news, Austrian Airlines was named on Wednesday as the official airline of Eurovision 2015.

Voting Fraud

The 2015 contest has already attracted controversy, with Macedonia's selection Daniel Kajmakoski facing potential disqualification as a result of voting irregularities.  

The Skopje Festival 2014 held in November is now under investigation after reports that the winning song's composer, producer, and two employees of the company managing the voting process are alleged to have purchased 2,000 pre-paid SIM cards which were used to manipulate the results, pushing the previous favourite and jury selection Tamara Todevska into second place behind Kajmakoski.

Despite Kajmakoski not knowing anything of the fraud, if he is disqualified then Macedonia will need to send a replacement, likely to be Todevska.

Eurasion Competition

According to a report from European Voice website, there are strong indications that Russia is planning to run its own song contest, in competition with Eurovision, which is likely to be boycotted by the former Soviet state and its satellite republics.

Up until 1992, countries east of the Iron Curtain were forbidden to participate in the ESC, apart from Yugoslavia which made its own rules under Tito.

From 1961 to 1981, the Soviets promoted Intervision, which was held always in Sopot, Poland until that country left communist rule with the rise of the Solidarity movement.

Amid new tensions between East and West caused by the fighting in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea, Moscow plans a new contest which conforms to its vision of a Eurasian hegemony, to be held in October in Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Former Soviet Republics as well as members of the Shanghai Co-Operation Organization, which was founded in 2001 to oppose the Nato military alliance, have been invited, with six countries already confirming their participation, including Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The bid to establish their own version of Eurovision is seen by many as part of a cynical geo-political strategy, which was veiled by homophobia after the win of the 2014 contest by Austria's own favourite drag performer, Conchita Wurst.

At the time, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic party of Russia, reportedly said “This is the end of Europe.  It’s rotted away. There are no more men and women. There is just ‘it’.” 

Valery Rashkin, the deputy leader of the ­Communist Party, told the Interfax news agency that Russia should pull out of Eurovision and establish a ‘family values’ alternative.

Russia has not officially said whether it will be participating in the 2015 Eurovision Contest, although First Channel 1TV announced in June that it would likely participate, with the winner of their contest known as The Voice.

For now, it remains to be seen whether the final word will go to The Voice, or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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