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Eurovision reveals what would happen if Russia wins 2016 contest

Eurovision reveals what would happen if Russia wins 2016 contest

Finland had a same-sex kiss in their Eurovision performance in 2013

Eurovision season is only weeks away, and it is looking increasingly likely that Russia will win the 2016 contest.

Bookmakers have given Russia’s entry, Sergey Lasarev with his song You Are The Only One, very short odds of 7/4. The next best bets are the Sweden, this year’s reigning champions and hosts, and Australia.

Gay fans are fearing for their safety if Russia are the hosts in 2017, as is customary for the winners of the previous contest. Russia enforces a ‘gay propaganda’ law that arrests and fines LGBTI people for acts authorities consider to be a ‘promotion of homosexuality’. This can range from anything to holding hands with a same-sex partner in public to flying a rainbow flag as a protest for LGBTI rights.

When they hosted the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, several LGBTI spectators were arrested and fined.

Gay Star News put a series of questions to Eurovision.

GSN: If Russia does win this year, will they be allowed to host Eurovision?

‘In accordance with the Rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, the winning broadcaster will be offered the first opportunity to host the event next year,’ the Eurovision spokesperson said.

Sergey works out to prepare for Eurovision
Sergey works out to prepare for Eurovision

Considering LGBT people were arrested when Russia hosted the Sochi Olympics, is Eurovision concerned about guaranteeing the safety of organizers, the acts and spectators?

‘As organizers, the safety and security of participants, fans, press and staff attending the event is our highest priority. For several years it has been standard policy to require from the host country a signed declaration confirming that they will guarantee their safety during the event.’

If Russia did host, would Eurovision be opposed to performances featuring same-sex kisses or showing LGBTI symbols as an act of protest/celebration?

‘In accordance with the Rules of the Eurovision Song Contest, using the event as platform for political messages is not allowed and should at all times be suitable family television in all participating countries. A good example was Finland’s performance in 2013, which featured a same-sex kiss, was in line with the Rules and was not opposed by any of the participating broadcasters.’

Would Eurovision encourage Russia to suspend the ‘gay propaganda’ law during the week in exchange for hosting?

‘We cannot provide comments on speculative situations however as outlined above, the safety of all attending the event remains the highest priority.’

The Eurovision spokesperson added that while they couldn’t speculate on what might or might not happen given the 2016 contest has yet to take place, they reinforced the importance of the attendees’ safety being guaranteed.

Back in November 2013, five months after the ‘gay propaganda’ law came into force, Eurovision took a harder line by saying they would absolutely ‘take action’ if Russia could not guarantee gay fans of the show would not be arrested.

While Eurovision has been held in very LGBTI friendly countries for the past few years, it has been held in countries with homophobic attitudes like Azerbaijan in 2012 and Serbia in 2008. The last time Russia hosted was in 2009.

While some may think being banned from hosting Eurovision is little punishment, Sweden believes hosting the contest brings in over 1.1 billion Swedish kronor ($177m, €132m) in advertising value alone.