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At 'Eurovision 2012,' Politics Take The Stage

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At 'Eurovision 2012,' Politics Take The Stage

Europe

At 'Eurovision 2012,' Politics Take The Stage

At 'Eurovision 2012,' Politics Take The Stage

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/153761771/153762100" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

An estimated 125 million people are expected to tune in to Saturday night's final contest in Eurovision 2012. This year's song contest has provoked controversy over its host country, Azerbaijan, whose president is accused of human rights abuses. Vicki Barker has the story.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The annual kitsch contest known as the Eurovision Song Contest takes place later today. It's always held in the home country of the previous year's winner. This time, it's authoritarian Azerbaijan in central Asia. So it's been hard to avoid politics at what's supposed to be a nonpolitical event. Vicki Barker reports on both the contest and the context.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WATERLINE")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY FOR EVERYBODY)

: But they'll have stiff competition from the apple-cheeked Buranovo grannies of rural Russia, in their colorful peasant skirts...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY FOR EVERYBODY")

: And zippy bilingual dance number.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST FOR ONE NIGHT")

: This is not an official Eurovision entry: this is Emin Agalarov. The aspiring pop star is also the son-in-law of Azerbaijan's president. He'll serenade the crowd during the voting.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST FOR ONE NIGHT")

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen...

: The 56-nation European Broadcasting Union, which runs the Eurovision song contest, must have seen this coming when Azerbaijan won last year. Ingrid Deltenre is EBU director general.

INGRID DELTENRE: Why are we going with the song contest to Azerbaijan? Because it's according to the rules.

: She says Eurovision has no control over individual countries' hiring decisions or their human rights policies. Amnesty International's Nicola Duckworth wants Eurovision and participating countries to publicly condemn the human rights abuses in Azerbaijan.

NICOLA DUCKWORTH: European governments and the European Broadcasting Union have maintained really a deafening silence about these abuses.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE WILL SET YOU FREE")

: There's been a no comment from the British entrant - 76-year-old crooner Engelbert Humperdink. He'll be serenading the Azerbaijani people with a ballad called "Love Will Set You Free."

For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE WILL SET YOU FREE")

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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