The European Rightly
May 31st, 2020

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Belgium symptomatic for West’s decline

May 9th, 2013

Egon Spengler has famously claimed the ‘decline of the West’. That prediction has come true through the Eurovision Song Contest: western European countries have atrocious track records, and Belgium’s leading.

Ireland used to offer hope to the West in the shape of Mr Eurovision, but now he's gone, too.

‘Countries in Western Europe that do not belong to the Big Five are unfortunately at the mercy of their larger neighbours when it comes down to a few pity points,’ admits Belgian ESC expert André Vermeulen.

Belgium was the first country at the Contest to ever receive the dreaded nul points. ‘At least, back in the early days, that was kind of an achievement, with so few countries competing,’ reminisces Vermeulen.

‘If you look at the history of Belgium’s entries, they remind me of a guy playing poker thinking it’s bridge. The occasional bout of brilliance is purely incidental, but usually you’re just baffled by what Belgium is doing. They even named an award after a notoriously bad entry,’ says Graham Norton, the British Eurovision host.

The small kingdom’s only victory dates from 1986. Fittingly, it was an illegal victory, because the contestant, Sandra Kim, was only 13 at the time of competing. ‘Belgium’s 2013 entry is more of a traditionally bad song about a man grappling with his sexuality,’ says Vermeulen, ‘so we’ll see how much of a disgrace we’ll make out of ourselves this time.’

Graham Norton offers words of consolation for the Belgians, though: ‘It’s not like the other Western countries are any better. The least said about the Netherlands’ recent ESC history, the better. It’s like that drunk uncle with a terrible stand-up routine who then tries to pass it off as satire.’

For 2013, the Dutch have sent an inoffensive ballad. ‘In technical jargon, we call this an ‘Olsen Brothers Manoeuvre’: going for an unexpected win with a static, boring song,’ explains Vermeulen. So far, it’s been 13 years since it has produced a winner.

Norton then discusses the Alpine countries Switzerland and Austria: ‘The Swiss’ last win was on the back of a Canadian mercenary. As for Austria, it’s a pity the country is always cast as Germany’s goofy little brother. It’s like being the sidekick of a serial killer: you may be not as hated, but nobody will want to be your friend.’

Vermeulen adds, downcast: ‘In case of Belgium, the problem is that it is the serial killer. That’s not making things any easier.’

For some reason, the micronation of San Marino is also competing at the Eurovision Song Contest. ‘Taking a sensational beating at every international sporting league apparently isn’t enough,’ quips Norton. ‘Maybe they’ve been tricked into it so Italy could get an easy 12 points.’

Graham Norton:
‘Belgium reminds me of a guy playing poker thinking it’s bridge. It’s baffling’

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. Ireland is the only smaller western European country that has done well at the ESC, winning it seven times. ‘But the Irish made a lot of sacrifices for that achievement,’ notes Vermeulen, ‘The architect of their victory streak, Johnny Logan, self-destructed in alcohol.’ For 2013, Ireland is attempting to copy David Guetta and hopes no one will notice.

This is the third part of The Rightly’s ESC Special. Next up: ‘Scandinavia to form MegaZord at ESC’.