Eurovision Song Contest 2015: How Vienna has embraced Eurovision fever

The world's most liveable city became the world's most visible city on Sunday, as an estimated 198 million people tuned in around the world to watch the Eurovision Song Contest for 2015, hosted by Vienna, Austria.

Vienna, a city more commonly associated with classical music and opera (most notably Mozart and Beethoven) has taken on a decidedly pop flavour in the week leading up to the world's biggest song contest.

Austria won the competition in 2014, giving the country the right to host this year's 60th anniversary event – the most watched non-sport television event in the world.

2015 has also been notable from an Australian perspective, with Australia receiving a wildcard entry into the event (with automatic qualification for the grand final) and being represented by pop star Guy Sebastian.

Across the city, Eurovision fever has broken out, with parks covered in love hearts and cardboard stand-ups of performers, while Vienna's move to replace some of its standard pedestrian lights with images of gay, lesbian and straight couples, symbolising tolerance, has made news worldwide.

Elsewhere, last year's winner Conchita Wurst's voice can be heard on the subway system's announcements, while Austria Trend Hotels has embraced the event by having its staff wear versions of Wurst's iconic close-shaved beard.

The Leopold Museum is presenting a cheeky exhibition from artist Tex Rubinowitz, entitled The Nul-Pointers, which celebrates Eurovision's biggest losers – the 34 sorry souls from the event's history who received zero points from anywhere.

Those lucky enough to have secured tickets to the grand final at the Stadthalle have paid up to €390 ($549) for the privilege. Others may have paid much less to attend lead-up events, such as one of the separate jury or daytime 'family shows' for as little as €14.

Outside the Stadthalle, there have been a series of free public events across the city. A 'Eurovillage' has been set up in the Rathausplatz square, where live music, including performances from the finalists (Guy Sebastian braved the rain to play there on Wednesday), is on daily, along with live screenings of the finals.


But Eurovision is, first and foremost, a television event, and Austria's tourism officials have not allowed the opportunity to showcase the country to go to waste, with 1750 journalists from 60 countries in town for the event. It's estimated 110,000 visitors will come to Vienna for Eurovision, bringing with them up to €100 million in economic benefit to the city.

Each of the finalists in the competition have also starred in individual video 'postcards' showcasing different parts of Austria. Guy Sebastian's video, screened prior to his performance at the grand final, featured the Australian Idol winner surfing on the Alm Canal in Salzburg – one of the few rivers in the world where this is possible.

SBS has not forgotten the Australian fans who have made the journey from Australia and other parts of the world to celebrate Australia's entry into the event. On Thursday the broadcaster held an intimate performance from Sebastian at a tiny Australian-themed pub (Vienna is, oddly, home to at least two of these) for Aussie Eurovision tragics, providing all who attended with "Team Guy" T-shirts and paddles to show their support.

Vienna, a city of 1.7 million people, was named the world's most liveable city in consulting firm Mercer's annual rankings in March this year, ahead of Zurich and Auckland. The Austrian capital was praised for its vibrant cultural scene and impressive public transport.

This was the sixth year in a row Vienna has topped the Mercer survey, and with Eurovision giving the city something else to brag about, 2015 will likely score "douze points" for the city regardless of the outcome of Austria's entrant.

The writer travelled to Vienna as a guest of the Austrian Tourist Board.

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See also: Julia Zemiro's guide to visiting her favourite Eurovision countries
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