Many American families tune in every year to catch the Eurovision Song Contest, that slightly quirky musical competition held in Europe. Well the 2009 contest is set to be the last, as the organizers have unveiled ambitious plans for a massive new world-wide event next year, the World Song Contest, and it is set to come to Chicago in 2012.
The World Song Contest will be based on the same format as the current event, but will include a set of 12 semi-final rounds to be held around the world in the months leading up to the final. This will allow localized voting to reduce the contestants from the 183 nations who have expressed an interest in competing, to the 25 countries who will meet in London in 2010 for the big show.
Five countries are guaranteed entry to the final, due to their funding and hosting of the event. These will be the US, UK, Spain, France and Germany. At the final, to be held in London's O2 Arena for the first year, each finalist will play their entry song live to a huge international crowd. Commentary from celebrity observers for each country will be added to the live feed as the show is being beamed out to the rest of the planet. The worldwide TV audience is expected to top 1.2 billion, easily the largest audience for any event apart from Princess Diana's funeral.
The World Song Contest is seen as a way of revitalizing the Eurovision Song Contest, which has been held since 1956 and is one of the longest running TV programs in the world. In recent years, however, it is thought younger people have lost interest and the voting has become particularly partisan, although steps have been taken to address this. There are some concerns from current participants that the new contest will not adhere to the 'Eurovision Style', but most observers think this will be a good thing.
The World Song Contest has become possible because TV companies in the United States, Japan and China have aligned with the European Broadcasting Union and created a new joint venture company called WorldSong, based in New York. WorldSong will be funded by the competing nations, but will also recover revenue from TV licensing.
Whatever the outcome of the contest in 2010 and 2011, the 2012 event is expected to be a spectacular show. The venue will be the brand new Chicago Omega Center announced as a building project in the US Economic Stimulus Plan. This promises to be the largest indoor concert venue in the world, and the 2012 World Song Contest is already penciled in to be the Omega Center's opening event.