Notes on the Reference Group Meeting

So, the Heads of Delegation, that is, the three or four leaders (producers/sponsors) for each individual entry, meet annually before in the host city to learn about the host broadcaster’s plans for the event and for the official drawing of the running order for the two semi-finals and the Grand Final.

New Features for the 2010 Contest (some we knew already):

  • Following the procedure used in the Junior ESC, voting will take place throughout the entirety of the performances plus an additional 15 minutes after the final song.  (I, personally, think this is a bad idea and doubt it will do anything but aggravate the tendency to vote the songs towards the end of the night.)
  • Because of the aforementioned change, there will be a song recap after every five songs (so, after the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth, and twentieth (for the Grand Final) entries) in addition to after the last act of the night.  (I don’t know how I feel about this, but I am cautiously optimistic.)
  • The advert breaks will occur between songs 12 and 13 during each semi-final.  (I don’t know the statistics for the songs immediately preceding or following the break, but Oikotimes made it seem like a bad thing.  For the four entries that fall in that position – Albania & Greece in SF 1, Ireland & Bulgaria in SF2), Bulgaria will be the worst affected by this decision.)
  • The juries’ wildcard for each semi-final will no longer be in effect as it was in 2008 and 2009.  Instead, the semi-finals will follow the same 50% televoting-50% jury voting system of the Final.
  • The postcards (for those of you who don’t know, those are the thirty second vignettes between songs) this year will feature the artists in their home country and the artists with host families in Norway.  The nifty thing is, NRK reported that part of the postcards will be displayed over the heads of the audience – in the air!
  • The complete details of the interval act have yet to be disclosed, but it was stated that the interval act of the Grand Final will incorporate scenes of flash mobs dancing in ten different European cities.  So if you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the chosen places, participate!
  • The preliminary stage design was also reveled.  Though, interestingly, Oikotimes is the only news outlet with a picture of it.  AS you can see, it looks like it is going to be on the smaller side and somewhat reminiscent of the stage in Riga (ESC2003).  Which shouldn’t be too bad, given the fact that there are a lot of soloists with ballads this year.

We also learned the running order of the two semi-finals and of the five automatic qualifiers to the Final.

First Semi-Final Second Semi-Final
1 Moldova Lithuania
2 Russia Armenia
3 Estonia Israel
4 Slovakia Denmark
5 Finland Switzerland
6 Latvia Sweden
7 Serbia Azerbaijan
8 Bosnia & Herzegovina Ukraine
9 Poland Netherlands
10 Belgium Romania
11 Malta Slovenia
12 Albania Ireland
13 Greece Bulgaria
14 Portugal Cypress
15 Macedonia Croatia
16 Belarus Georgia
17 Iceland Turkey

Once again, it looks like the second Semi-Final has been heavy loaded with favorites and strong contenders, while the first Semi-Final is weaker.  I will now offer my first predictions for the Semi-Final qualifiers, these will probably change and shift as the Contest grows closer.

Countries that should already be preparing for the Grand Final:

From the first Semi-Final – Russia, Greece, Iceland;  From the second Semi-Final – Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Turkey

Countries that might slip in, given that a majority will qualify for the Final and the juries get 50% power:

From the first Semi-Final – Belgium, Serbia, Albania, Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina;  From the second Semi-Final – Cypress, Georgia, Croatia, Sweden

Countries that should be preparing their 2011 entries:  Actually, while I would normally have an opinion on this, I think it is a bit too early to call this one just yet, given the fact that so many entries are so similar.  Though, I think I would say Ukraine would fit in the category.

For the Final, the five automatic qualifiers received the following spots:

2. Spain (anyone else notice the gasp that ranged out at this announcement?  One can only assume that it was from the Spanish delegation, perhaps already seeing a lower placing for their entry on the final scoreboard.)

3. Norway (well, at least no one can say that the drawing was rigged.  Norway will probably still do alright, host countries tend to receive at least some courtesy votes.)

12. United Kingdom (smack-dab in the middle of the running order.  The UK can either be an electrifying start to the second half or the whimpering close to the first.)

18. France (how lovely for the French, statistically, they have the best placing of the five countries, as four out of the last five winners all won from a position within 17-19.  Not that I think France has a shot at winning, but it definitely has a shot at doing better than initially predicted)

22. Germany (self-chosen, hoping to benefit from being near the end without any of the pressures of having to close the show.  I think they should have chosen one of the last two slots, but maybe 22 will work for them.)

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