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EUROVISION SONG CONTEST

EUROVISION

‘Eurovision promotes peace and tolerance’

With only a day to go before the Eurovision final in Vienna, The Local caught up with Peter Huber, the Austrian ambassador to Madrid to hear his views on the world’s most prestigious singing competition.

'Eurovision promotes peace and tolerance'
Austrian Ambassador Peter Huber with Edurne at a Eurovision event in April Photo: Austrian Embassy

It may be dismissed as a kitsch joke by many but in bringing so many different nations together, Eurovision could serve as a valuable tool to the wider diplomatic community.

“In 60 years of its existence Eurovision always carried a message of peace, understanding and tolerance,” Peter Huber, the Austrian ambassador to Madrid since January 2014, told The Local.

Austria only won once before, in 1966 with Udo Jürgen’s “Merci Chérie”, but last year against all odds and to the surprise and in some cases, horror of many, Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag queen reclaimed the crown for Austria with a song entitled “Rise like a Phoenix”.

Conchita Wurst performing the winning song at Eurovision in May 2014. Photo: AFP

But with winning comes the responsibility of hosting the event the following year and it's not always straightforward.

“To host a TV event of this dimension poses various challenges, primarily for Austrian Television but also for the host city,” admits Huber. “From choosing the right location (The Wiener Stadthalle) to the various side events and the promotion of the event 'worldwide'.

But being the host country also brings advantages and rare opportunities.

“Eurovision provides Austria and the host city Vienna with a great opportunity to present themselves to the world,” Huber said.

“Austrians are known for their hospitality, they love music and will do everything to make Eurovision for the artists, delegations and all the Eurovision fans an unforgettable event.”

Winning the Eurovision crown has also brought a few perks to Austria’s diplomat representatives.

“Eurovision was new territory for Austrian diplomacy. Austrian Embassies in more than 30 countries organized Eurovision events,” explained the ambassador to Madrid.

The video clip recorded exclusively for The Local was recorded at the Austrian Embassy party

“In Madrid we presented the Spanish participant “Edurne” with her song “Amanecer” to the diplomats of the participating countries and to the international media,”

The event was attended by The Local who can confirm that Edurne performed live while guests snacked on mini wiener schnitzels and sipped Austrian wine.

“Organizing such an event is far from regular diplomatic work but with Radio Television Espanola and sponsors reaching from Vienna Products and Swarovski to Red Bull we had great partners to make it possible.

“It was a unique experience and the whole team enjoyed the challenge.”

Whether Huber has been a long standing fan of Eurovision or has just adopted an interest as a responsibilty of the job, he certainly shows an enthusiasm for it.

Asked if he had a favourite Eurovision entry this year, he reeled off a long list.

“In general the quality of the songs is very high. There are quite a few I like and that will be successful well beyond Eurovision,” he opined.

But of course after getting to know Edurne at the Austrian embassy Eurovision party, she has won a place in his heart.

“I know the Spanish song very well and have to admit that I like it a lot,” he said.

“My other personal favorites are Estonia, Belgium, Hungary, Albania, Norway and of course the 'Makemakes' from Austria.”

He later added that the Australian entry –  a one-off guest to the Eurovision event – was also a favourite of his.

But his greatest admiration is reserved for last year’s winning entry.

“I met Conchita in March in Barcelona. Conchita is not only a great artist but also an extremely intelligent and smart young person. She is a fantastic ambassador for tolerance and has also shown the world a new side of Austria.”

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TRAVEL

Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Find out what's going on in Austria on Friday with The Local's short roundup of today's news.

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