For the very first time Eurovision was to be held in Russia, and the capital Moscow was more than ready for the chaos that accompanied the 54th contest.
42 countries, including the returning Slovakia, were to take to the spectacular stage in the 25 000 seat Olimpisky Arena, which featured a record amount of LED screens and moveable areas that would ensure a totally different look for every performance like never before.
For the second consecutive year, two semi finals were held on May 12th and 14th to determine the twenty countries that would make it to Saturday’s final. Supermodel Natalia Vodianova and television personality Andrey Malahov were the hosts and the competition between countries was fiercer than ever before.
The final opened with a routine combining the world-famous Cirque Du Soleil, and 2008’s Eurovision champion Dima Bilan, who reprised his winning song ‘Believe’ to an excited full capacity crowd, before the next set of hosts, another Russian TV star Ivan Urgant, and the home country’s representative in the 2000 contest, Alsou, welcomed Europe to Moscow.
Lithuania’s Sasha Son was the opening entry, singing a low-key ballad titled simply ‘Love’. It was well regarded in the arena but not so much as the next, Israel, who had chosen to bring an Israeli, Noa, and an Arab, Mira Awad, together to perform the heartfelt political plea ‘There Must Be Another Way’. Sung in Hebrew, Arabic and English, the song’s end was met with a loud cheer for the two songstresses. However, the dreaded slot of number 2 may have let Israel fall to finish in a not terrible, but not notable 16th place as a final result.
Iceland’s Yohanna was a fresh-faced eighteen year-old in Moscow on a mission to take home the top prize. Her well written ballad ‘Is It True?’ was a clear favourite in the arena, and her faultless vocals no doubt added to the package. With 218 points and second place, Yohanna would have been pleased with her efforts.
Greece’s entry in the 2004 contest and the host of 2006’s, Sakis Rouvas, was back for more with a song guaranteed to get the audience going. Penned by two Australians, ‘This Is Our Night’ was another popular song that missed out on first place, but definitely made the evening memorable with a slick stage presentation.
Russia had picked ‘Mamo’ performed by Ukrainian Anastasia Prikhodko. Dressed all in white and singing in front of a video showing her ageing as the song progressed, Anastasia delivered the unusual ethnic tune with might, and naturally received the largest cheer of the night. A creditable eleventh place proved that the aforementioned theory was most likely just that.
Malta’s Chiara had plenty of Eurovision experience up her sequinned sleeve when she appeared, similarly to her other performances (3rd place in 1998 and 2nd in 2005) alone onstage in a sparkling black gown, with just her microphone stand to support her. Unfortunately, it seemed that this time around, the simple presentation did not work as planned, despite a powerful rendition of her song ‘What If We’. Chiara ended the night in a disappointing 22nd place.
Slot number twenty belonged to 2009’s favourite – 23 year old Norwegian Alexander Rybak. Born in Belarus, he had been eliminated from Norway’s version of Pop Idol and came to Eurovision to prove that he could still make it in showbiz. A carefully choreographed performance involving a troupe of dancers complemented Alexander’s self-composed folk song ‘Fairytale’, and had the crowd on their feet throughout. His winning smile signalled the end of what was no doubt a winning performance. This one would be difficult to beat.
After years of bad results and the scar from 2003’s nil-point effort still fading, the United Kingdom pulled out all the stops in the quest for Eurovision glory (or at least a place in the top ten). The writers of their power ballad, sung by young Jade Ewen, were none other than Diane Warren and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the latter of whom appeared onstage to play the piano. Apart from a slight collision with one of her violinists, Jade’s performance went off without a hitch and got a standing ovation from the audience.
Two more entries, a spectacular interval act, and millions of calls and SMS’s later, the votes from the 42 countries began to roll in. It was apparent from the very beginning that Norway had the edge, and by the time the procedure was ten or so nations in, this edge was of the size that no one else had much of a chance to catch up. The fight then turned to that for second place, with the UK, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iceland in constant contention.
Fourteen years after their second victory, Norway were able to declare themselves the winners of Eurovision, with a record-breaking 387 points and the largest winning margin over runners-up Iceland ever seen at the contest. A still humble Rybak was visibly jubilant with the win as he and his entourage made their way to the stage, and only just managed to get through the reprise among the chaos.
Dancing in the streets of Norway was widespread as Russia’s time in the Eurovision limelight drew to a very successful close. A landmark contest in many ways, 2009 meant that its future looked brighter than ever before.
2009 FACT: In order to combat the dominance of bloc votes in the contest, national juries were re-introduced this year. They consisted of an assembly of musicians and industry experts from each country, who had to cast votes for their favourites. 50% of these and 50% of the televoting results were combined to reach a verdict.