That perculiar competition The Eurovision Song Conest is with us again. Terry Wogan, who for years provided the BBC’s tongue-in-cheek commentary to their coverage comments on Italy’s return into the fray.
What caught my eye this year was the return of Italy to the lists, for I have wonderful memories of their last participation. They staged the contest in the studios at Cinecitta, a suburb of Rome, and put us all up in a Holiday Inn-type establishment with a view of a flyover, rather than the Colosseum. On the Big Night we queued in the rain in our finery, and sat, soaked, for the evening. It was after this that the Eurovision ceased to be a “black tie” event.
Apart from the weather, the evening was a watershed on a couple of counts: Italy left with her Roman nose in the air, and people, particularly certain BBC executives, came to the realisation that this contest was not what it claimed to be, but an evening of eccentric delight that nobody could sleep through.
The Italians’ attitude veered toward the careless. The set seemed to be mainly rusty tinplate; when I pointed this out, I was told, “On the camera it will look like marble”. No, it looked just like rusty tinplate. But it was the co-presenter who stole the show: he missed his cues, interrupted his fellow presenter and everybody else, and argued with the referee continually over the scoring. He lost it for Italy, but saved it for us.