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Date : 13th May, 2017
Time : 54’ 18”
Total distance run to date : 1070 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1746319771
I was originally going to publish this blog last Tuesday. However, its mostly a light hearted look at the Eurovision Song Contest – which I attended in Kiev – and it didn’t seem appropriate after the events at the Manchester Arena the night before.
Heartbreakingly, not only Manchester has suffered recently. On Friday, at least 28 Egyptian Copts were killed in a terrorist attack. In the past week there have also been attacks resulting in fatalities in Indonesia, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria. One website records 509 attacks and 3358 fatalities in 2017 alone. The vast majority of these receive little or no coverage in Western media.
In a lifetime of following international affairs, I have rarely seen terrorism achieve anything other than appalling loss, a deepening of hatred and an escalation of the circle of violence.
Running round the world doesn’t make you an expert on anything – but it does give you a global perspective. Should you choose to read my ‘microscopically trivial in comparison’ blog, please spare a thought not only for my fellow country men and women who died in Manchester but also for all the victims of terrorism in the last week / month / year / decade.
The Eurovision Song Contest. The annual Eurotrashaganza that’s been around since 1956 and which, I’d guess, pretty much every adult in Europe has seen at least once. A privilege they share with the good folk of those not-obviously-European countries – such as Morocco and Australia – that are occasionally invited to participate.
If you’ve watched it in the UK then it will have been accompanied by the Terry Wogan / Graham Norton siniggerfest that is the BBC’s coverage. If you’ve watched it abroad then you may have taken it more seriously. Either way, you’ll no doubt have a stack of memories.
Who could, for example, forget Abba winning in 1974 with ‘Waterloo’? Complete with a conductor dressed as Napoleon and a remarkably static pair of dancing queens in Anni-Frid and Agnetha? (Thereby launching the career of the world’s ‘greatest ever pop group’ (1).)
And then, of course, there was um, er….nothing really. At least not for me because, like any self-regarding ‘muso’ (aka music snob), I’ve mostly done my best to avoid to it.
I did once, more recently, see part of the voting process. At first, I couldn’t understand it. All the new eastern European countries, whom you might think would have reason to act otherwise, seemed to be voting for Russia. And then I realised it’s all about your diaspora. There are a lot of ethnic Russians in a lot of eastern European countries and therefore a good chance that the public vote in those countries might favour Russia. (Russia holds the record for the most top 5 finishes in the 21st century).
It was going to be interesting to see how the Russian song fared in 2017 because the event was being hosted in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. And I don’t think I run the risk of offending either side if I say that there has been a lot of tension between Ukraine and Russia in recent years. (Pls see Facts & Stats for more detail.)
Except that there wasn’t a Russian entry. Because the Ukraine refused to let Yulia Samoylova take part on the grounds that she had illegally entered the Crimea in 2014 to perform there. The European Broadcasting Union tried to engineer a compromise whereby Samoylova would perform remotely but eventually everyone had to accept that there wouldn’t be a Russian entry in 2017.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m going on about the Eurovision Song Contest. Because, completely by coincidence, I found myself in Kiev on the day of the 2017 contest. As you’ll have gathered, I wouldn’t normally watch it on TV but It felt like fate had spoken so I shelled out a lot of money and bought a ticket to the final.
Which, luckily, didn’t start until 22.00 so I had plenty of time to get my run done first. I met Iain (from the British Embassy) at the Expo Centre. Formerly known as the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy of Ukrainian SSR, and located on the outskirts of the Holosiivskyi national nature park, the Expo was built to demonstrate Ukrainian achievements (and superiority) in the spheres of industry and science.
We did a quick loop round the centre at the beginning and end of the run but mostly ran in the Park where we were occasionally joined by Phil – picture below. It drizzled a lot and by the end we were pretty wet and cold. Despite this, it was an enjoyable run. It’s amazing what good company and lurid orange drinks can do for you.
Enough of the running, I hear you cry. What was the Eurovision Song Contest like?
I arrived about 20 minutes late, after dinner with Iain and his delightful family, but still saw about 20 songs. Which, to be fair, was plenty.
On the plus side, music is always better live than on TV and the fans – including a surprising number of Brits – were brilliant with their national flag inspired costumes and their uncanny ability to sing along to songs that most of us have never heard before.
I even quite liked some of the songs. The Italian song because it featured a dancing gorilla. The Romanian song because it contained yodelling. (I think we can all agree that there isn’t enough yodelling in contemporary music).
Others were a touch disappointing. The Ukrainian entry was a rock song when it should, of course, have been ‘Crimea River’ (2). And the less said about the British entry – which couldn’t be seen by half the audience due to the bizarre clam shell stage set – the better.
Anyway, if you’d like to get better sense of what it was like live, I’ve put a load of videos on Instagram.
Eventually, pummelled by 2 hours of high volume Euro pop, and conscious of my flight the next morning, I left before the voting started and returned to my hotel. (The Ukrainia – background of the picture below – overlooks the main square and its claims to fame include being the site from which snipers shot demonstrators during the 2014 revolution.)
However, I understand that Portugal won, Bulgaria (represented by a Russian – Bulgarian singer) came second and Moldova third. The UK came a surprisingly high 15th.
As an aside, that third place earned ‘Sunstroke’, the Moldavan group in question, national medals. Further evidence that some countries take it more seriously than the UK.
And that’s enough about the Eurovision Song Contest for one blog. Iain – thank you for all the help and support and hope to see you in July 2020 for the UK leg of Run the World!
Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Ukraine is a sovereign state in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the east and northeast, Belarus to the northwest, Poland and Slovakia to the west, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova to the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and southeast, respectively. Ukraine is currently in territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014 but which Ukraine, and most of the international community, recognise as Ukrainian. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.
The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key centre of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus’ forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but its territory was eventually split between Poland and the Russian Empire, and later merged fully into Russia.
During the 20th century three periods of independence occurred. The first of these periods occurred briefly near the end of World War I and the second occurred, also briefly, during World War II. However, both of these first two earlier periods would eventually see Ukraine’s territories consolidated back into a Soviet republic within the USSR. The third period of independence began in 1991, when Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the aftermath of its dissolution at the end of the Cold War. Ukraine has fiercely maintained its independence as a sovereign state ever since.
Following its independence, Ukraine declared itself a neutral state. Nonetheless it formed a limited military partnership with the Russian Federation and other CIS countries and a partnership with NATO in 1994. In the 2000s, the government began leaning towards NATO, and a deeper cooperation with the alliance was set by the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002. It was later agreed that the question of joining NATO should be answered by a national referendum at some point in the future. Former President Viktor Yanukovych considered the current level of co-operation between Ukraine and NATO sufficient, and was against Ukraine joining NATO. In 2013, protests against the government of President Yanukovych broke out in downtown Kiev after the government had decided to suspend the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement and seek closer economic ties with Russia. After this began a several-months-long wave of demonstrations and protests known as the Euromaidan, which later escalated into the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that led to the overthrow of President Yanukovych and his cabinet and the establishment of a new government. These events formed the background for the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, and the War in Donbass in April 2014. On 1 January 2016, Ukraine applied the economic part of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union.
Ukraine has long been a global breadbasket because of its extensive, fertile farmlands and is one of the world’s largest grain exporters. Ukraine is a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system with separate powers: legislative, executive and judicial branches. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Taking into account reserves and paramilitary personnel, Ukraine maintains the second-largest military in Europe after that of Russia. The country is home to 42.5 million people (excluding Crimea), 77.8 percent of whom are Ukrainians “by ethnicity”, followed by a sizeable minority of Russians (17.3 percent) as well as Romanians/Moldovans, Belarusians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians and Hungarians. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religion in the country is Eastern Orthodoxy, which has strongly influenced Ukrainian architecture, literature and music.
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Ukraine – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
Population*** 45.2 m 2015 49.2 m 2000
GDP**** $90.6 bn 2015 $31.3 bn 2000
GNI per capita $2640 2015 $700 2000
% below poverty line* 6.4% 2015 83.3% 2002
Life expectancy at birth 71.2 yrs 2015 67.9 yrs 2000
Primary school enrolment** 104% 2014 115% 2000
*The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
**Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
***Decrease partly due to demographics and partly due to the Crimea and Donbas regions being excluded from the 2015 figure
****While GDP has increased between 2000 and 2015, it has fallen sharply in recent year due to the conflict and a poorly performing economy. GDP is projected to grow from 2016 on.
Global Cup – 36th
Per Capita Cup – 47th
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.
- EA Morris
- J Marszalek