Wild card Oz seeks upset at Eurovision pop fest

Australian singer Guy Sebastian will try to beat the Europeans at their own game in Vienna on Saturday night in the 60th annual Eurovision Song Contest, the uproarious pop extravaganza.

Wild card Oz seeks upset at Eurovision pop fest
Australian singer Guy Sebastian. Photo: DianeSunshineCoast/Wikimedia

But as Australia's maiden entry in the annual jamboree of the camp, the catchy and the corny from 1900 GMT, and watched by some 200 million people worldwide, achieving victory will be tough — and a major upset.

“It's very overwhelming. I've been fortunate enough to perform on various different stages but when you get on that Eurovision stage it's like nothing else I've ever done in my life,” Sebastian said.

Eurovision has a cult following in Australia, which led to the special invitation to mark six decades of the show.

Chiseled Mans Zelmerlow of perennial favourites Sweden — home of ABBA, whose 1974 victory with “Waterloo” propelled them to global fame — is the top pick among bookmakers to win with the upbeat “Heroes”.

Stiff competition also comes from Russian Polina Gagarina with “A Million Voices”, a paean to peace that she hopes will silence the boos that Russia's entry got last year after the annexation of Crimea.

Others in with a chance are Italian pop opera Il Vole, Belgian Loic Nottet, Estonian duo Elina Born and Stig Rasta or Morrland and Debrah Scarlett of Norway — the country that holds the record for scoring zero points the most times.

Long shots among the 27 finalists include Ann Sophie of Germany — whose first-choice act withdrew — Knez of Montenegro and Poland's Monika Kuszynska, confined to a wheelchair since a car crash in 2006.

Geopolitics will again be present this year with Armenia's ballad — described by Austrian magazine Profil as “feeling as long as a Wagner opera” — widely seen as being about the 1915 mass killings by Ottoman Turkey.

Turkey, which refuses to recognise the killings as genocide, has been absent from Eurovision since 2012. Another no-show is Ukraine, cash-strapped from the conflict with Russian-backed rebels in its east.

France's entry, “N'oubliez pas” (“Don't forget”) by Lisa Angell, is to mark the centenary of the start of World War I — one year late, some might say — and prospects for France's first victory since 1977 are slim.

Turkeys, orcs and babushkas

Mostly though the riotous anything-goes affair, open to the 56 members of the European Broadcasting Union and a world away from its civilised black-and-white beginnings, is about not taking life too seriously.

Previous entries have included six Russian grannies, Ireland's irreverent Dustin the Turkey and Finnish heavy metal outfit Lordi — looking like orcs from “Lord of the Rings” — who won in 2006 with “Hard Rock Hallelujah”.

The lyrics often make no sense, if they are in any recognised language at all, like “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley” by golden-booted Swedish Mormon brothers Herreys in 1984, “La La La” in 1968 or Lulu's “Boom-Bang-A-Bang” in 1969.

And who can forget the chorus to Austria's 1977 entry: “Boom boom boomerang, snadderydang. Kangaroo, boogaloo, didgeridoo. Ding dong, sing the song, hear the guitar twang. Kojak, hijack, me and you.”

The event has also long stressed tolerance for the unconventional, as witnessed by Israeli transgender Dana International in 1998, Ukraine's Verka Serduchka in 2007 and bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst in 2014.

Conchita's message — she will fly into the stage by trapeze at the start of the contest — has been enthusiastically adopted by Viennese authorities, including with special gay-themed traffic lights.

“I like the feeling because it's a little bit trashy but it's also very exciting,” said one German fan attending for the first time. “I have loved this show for 15 years and watch it every year on television.”

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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.

Travel should soon be easier thanks to the Green Passport ALEX HALADA / AFP
Travel should soon be easier thanks to the Green Passport (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

EU and Austrian green certificate for travel should be ready for June

EU countries and the EU Parliament have agreed on details of a digital Europe-wide certificate or “green passport” to give citizens proof of corona vaccinations, tests and having recovered from an infection with Covid-19.

This was announced by the Portuguese Presidency in Brussels on Thursday, and will hopefully make travel easier within the EU.The “digital green certificate” – in the form of a QR code – is to be introduced by the end of June.

‘3G Rule’: How to prove you have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in Austria

Austrian Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger said Austria would have its certificate ready by the beginning of June, and added the fall of the entry restrictions in many countries will make “vacation in Austria” possible again, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Wrong leg amputated at Austrian clinic

The wrong leg of an 82-year-old patient was amputated at a clinic in Upper Austria, Der Standard newspaper reports. The wrong leg was marked before the operation at the Freistadt Clinic. The patient’s second leg must now also be amputated from the middle of the thigh.

The patient and his relatives were offered psychological help, the paper reports, adding the doctor who carried out the amputation is currently not on duty at her own request. 

Seven day incidence at 55

The seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 54.8. In all federal states the number is now below 100 – with Vorarlberg (94.7) and Burgenland (36.0) having the highest and lowest values ​​respectively. 

Almost all federal states in Austria now yellow or orange

Vorarlberg is the only federal state to remain “red” or acute risk according to the coronavirus traffic light commission. Burgenland and Lower Austria were switched to yellow (medium risk) by the commission on Thursday, the rest of the country, with the exception of Vorarlberg, to orange (high risk). 

READ MORE: Explained: How does Austria’s coronavirus traffic light system work

Traffic jams expected this evening

Traffic jams are expected across Austria ahead of the Whitsun weekend, broadcaster ORF reports. On Friday afternoon there will be queues at the exits of the larger cities, warns the Ö3 traffic department.

Towards evening, and on Saturday, traffic is likely to shift more to the transit routes, with queues expected in Tyrol (A13, B179) as well as the border points at Walserberg (A8 / A1), the Karawanken tunnel (A11), Spielfeld (A9) and Nickelsdorf (A4).

Delays on the approaches to the tourist regions, such as on the connections on Lake Constance, the Carinthian lakes, in the Salzkammergut, the Neusiedler See, but also in the Wachau are expected. 

Austria crashes out of Eurovision 

Austria’s performer Vincent Bueno has failed to reach the last round of the Eurovision Song Contest. The 35-year-old singer from Austria “seemed very nervous” during his performance with the ballad “Amen” and could not reach top form, Der Standard newspaper reports. 

No wave of bankruptcies predicted in Austria 

State aid during the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to cause backlogs in company bankruptcies, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. A  Creditreform survey Austria had the steepest decline in corporate bankruptcies in Europe with minus 40.7 percent compared to the previous year. However,Gerhard Weinhofer, Managing Director of Creditreform in Vienna, no longer expects a large wave of bankruptcies for Austria as soon as state corporate aid expires.

Mood brightening for construction and industry

The latest industry overview from UniCredit Bank Austria, which shows the mood in the industry is increasingly brightening, both in construction and the service sector, the Wiener Zietung newspaper reports.

However, supply bottlenecks for some raw materials and strong demand for intermediate products are  increasing production costs. The situation in retail is more pessimistic, and the retail climate in particular remains gloomy for the time being, according to Bank Austria.

Number of people in employment in Austria declines

The number of people in employment in Austria in 2020 has begun to decline for the first time, resulting in a shrinking of  the proportion of the population that finances the social system, Der Standard newspaper reports.

Population economist Binder-Hammer finds that the current social system is characterized by high taxes for employed people, a strong redistribution to the retired population and less protection for the young, who have suffered most economically in the recent crisis.