MOSCOW – From the Cold War to a Battle of the Bands.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, by some accounts a big fan of ABBA, has suggested organizing an international song competition for Russia, Central Asia and China, saying it would strengthen cultural ties among the nations.
Europe has been holding such a competition for decades, called the Eurovision Song Contest. Known for campy and glitzy performers, the annual showcase for singers and musicians from across the continent typically attracts 100 million viewers or more from around the world on TV and the Internet.
After regional competition, the overall winners are chosen by a panel of judges and telephone or text voting by participating countries, similar to “American Idol.” The most famous winners of the contest include ABBA in 1974 and Celine Dion in 1988.
Russia won the competition in 2008 with heartthrob Dima Bilan’s song, “Believe.”
Moscow is still beaming after hosting Eurovision in May, watched by 125 million Europeans.
Putin first suggested creating a Eurasian version of the contest this week in China, dubbing it “Intervision,” to take place among members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – a regional economic and political pact designed in part to counter NATO.
Eurovision’s organizers sounded flattered by the proposal Friday, but also reminded the former KGB officer that he can’t create a televised pan-regional songfest without buying the intellectual property rights from them.