Naga Munchetty apologises live-on-air after Eurovision mistake
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Fans of the song contest will be watching closely this weekend as countries go head to head. While the Big 5 – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – get an automatic place in the final, countless more European nations, and Australia, battled it out for a place during the week. While Australia failed to reach this year’s final, Norway, Israel, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus and Lithuania, among others, have all made it through.
The contest has become as popular for the politics involved as it has for the acts, with many observers looking for clues about geopolitical relations in the final vote counts.
Controversy has been a solid feature of the contest since it launched in 1956.
This was especially true when Britain hosted the event in 1968.
Spain won the competition that year with its song, ‘La, la, la”, beating Sir Cliff Richard to the number one spot.
Back then, the country was under the control of dictator General Franco, who had ruled since 1939.
Sir Cliff’s loss at Eurovision is reports claim, a “stain on his career”, having come so close to the illustrious achievement.
However, an investigative documentary claimed that he and the UK were, in fact, the true victors.
According to the programme, ‘1968, I lived through the Spanish May’, Franco was determined to claim Eurovision glory for his own country.
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Broadcast in Spain in 2008, the investigation details how El Generalísimo was so keen to improve Spain’s international image that he sent corrupt TV executives across Europe to buy votes in the run-up to the contest.
Their mission was successful and Sir Cliff’s ‘Congratulations’ was defeated by Spanish singer Massiel.
Montse Fernandez Vila, the director of the documentary, told the Spanish news website Vertele: “[Massiel’s win] was fixed.
“It’s in the public domain that Televisión Española executives travelled around Europe buying series that would never be broadcast and signing concert contracts with odd, unknown groups and singers.
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“These contracts were translated into votes.”
She added: “It was these bought votes that won Eurovision for Massiel.
“The regime was well aware of the need to improve its image overseas … When you look at all the parties they organised and how Massiel was transformed into a national heroine, you realise it was rather over the top for a singing competition.
“It was all intended to boost the regime.”
On hearing the news, Sir Cliff said he was pleased at the prospect of being declared the winner.
He told The Guardian: “I’ve lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said: ‘Cliff, you won that darn thing after all.”
He continued: “If, like they say, they believe there is evidence that it was I that was the winner, there won’t be a happier person on the planet.
“It’s never good to lose, never good to feel a loser.
“When I went on that night I said to the band: ‘Look guys, there will be 400 million people watching, it will be a massive plug for our song.’
“And it was. I think we sold a million singles. But we really wanted to win.”
Despite the investigation, the result has never been altered.
Jamie McLoughlin, who ran the Eurovision website Whoops Dragovic, told The Guardian that he had his doubts over the documentary’s claims.
He said: “La La La was controversial from the start as it was originally to be performed in Catalan, but Franco wouldn’t allow it, so the woman who eventually sang it was only brought in at the last minute.
“The more obvious answer for the landslide of votes from Germany, the penultimate country to vote for Spain, which tipped the result Massiel’s way is – rather boringly – she went on a really popular German TV show the week before the contest to perform her song.
“Still, if it means Blighty can somehow get win number six from all this digging, I certainly won’t complain.”
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