The weird and wacky performances of the Eurovision song contest might seem like a strange bit of annual kitsch, but for 2014 host country, Denmark, the occasion is an opportunity to strengthen international relations, particularly with Australia.
“It’s a globalised world, there’s a lot of competition for attention and an event like [Eurovision] certainly creates additional positive attention for Denmark and we think that’s great,” Ole Neustrup, the deputy head of mission at the Danish Embassy in Canberra said.
“Not everyone loves Eurovision, let’s be honest, most people see it as something fun, it’s not too serious, you have a fun evening.”
Mr Neustrup arrived in Canberra the week before Denmark won the 2013 song contest and has seen the power of Eurovision as a tool for public diplomacy.
“There were three things that opened the door for Danish-Australian relations last year. We had just won the song contest; everybody talked about the Danish TV series on television, Borgen and The Killing … and then of course, Princess Mary.”
The Tasmanian-born princess and her husband helped foster a link between SBS and the Danish public broadcaster on their trip to Australia last October, when Crown Prince Frederik held his annual awards ceremony recognising upcoming Danish artists and performers.
“For the first time that was held outside of Denmark, at the Sydney Opera House, and that was transmitted in co-operation between SBS and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. That relationship has continued and Australia was invited to Copenhagen to take part in this event,” Mr Neustrup said.
The Australian chosen was Jessica Mauboy and her appearance in the first semi-final show was just one of the cultural exchanges which has become a large part of diplomacy in the modern world.
“We call it public diplomacy which is an important part of what we’re doing – that is promoting exchanges between our country and other countries,” the Danish diplomat said.
“That can be about tourism, television, it’s about books, performers ... [it's] clearly a growing factor in what we do; sharing our experiences and culture is very important.”
While there are always some colourful Eurovision contestants - this year, Austria’s bearded drag queen has hogged the headlines - the Danes’ hopes lie with Basim, a 21-year old who appeared on X-Factor at 15 and has plenty in common with Mauboy, 24, who as a 16-year-old was the Australian Idol runner-up.
"He’s very popular, in particular with the youngsters," Mr Neustrup said. "But I think it would be highly unlikely that Denmark will win it twice in a row; we’ve only won it three times."
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