It is the most watched non-sport event in the world, with over 150 million viewers. Azerbaijan went all out as host of the annual song contest this year.
42 countries participated, minus Armenia which pulled out in fear for its participants’ safety, or perhaps, as the NY Times reported, because they would rather pay a fine (for not appearing) than to step foot on enemy soil. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/28/world/asia/azerbaijan-revels-as-host-of-eurovision-song-contest.html)
The vast majority of songs were in English (shocking Mon dieu! to see that the French entry’s song title was in English but phew it was sung in French). Your author really liked the Estonian, who sang, presumably, in Estonian.
It began at midnight, timed more conveniently for London (8 pm) and central European time (9). T and I went out after 11 pm to walk along the Bulvar and catch the vibe.
The Crystal Palace, built at great monetary and social cost for the occasion, lit up with the colors of the flag of each nations’ act. Sorry our photos did not catch the Palace, but below is a shot of the new funicular building with the three new "flame towers" behind. A video runs on the towers, showing a person waving an Azerbaijani flag and then flames, a national symbol.
We watched some from a giant screen on the seaside Bulvar, the rest on a Russian TV channel at home. Fans worldwide voted by SMS for a short time (half an hour?)--we couldn't find a local TV station to find the correct number to vote or I would have... People cannot vote for their own country, but many seem to vote for neighboring countries. Representatives from each country then beam in, giving their country's votes for first, second and third: "Good evening! Belgrade calling" and a screen quickly updates the tally (how did they do this before computers??).