Sweden had the honour of hosting two world-class events on Saturday 18 May 2013: the Ice-hockey World Championship semi-finals in Stockholm and the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö. Finland lost 0-3 to Sweden in the semi-finals and, as a Finn, it hurts me to admit that not only did they beat us, but they were actually better. Whereas in the song contest, all the Nordic countries were in the final this year and a few even had a chance of doing well. Excluding Finland, of course – despite the media hype in the weeks leading up to the event, the only ambition most Finns ever entertain is not to end up with nil points.

Four of the Nordic countries sang in English this year – only Iceland trusted their native tongue with Eyþór’s simple ballad. The Legolas-lookalike was as beautiful as his song, with the language somewhat resembling Elvish too, but it was too predictable, topped with the clichéd Eurovision modulation at the end. Denmark of course won with their impressive pipe and drums combined with Emmelie’s sweet innocence. Sweden’s song was not that great, but their excellent organisation of the event and Petra Mede’s performance as the master of ceremonies scored them all the points they could have wished for. The show was stylish and to the point, peppered with self-irony and a sense of humour that, judging by the comments from the other countries, seemed to cross cultural barriers very successfully.

As for scoring, there were no surprises at all, as all countries kept to the tradition of voting for their neighbours. In today’s global context, it’s hard to believe that this is merely due to close cultural ties or the appreciation of similar music genres. Perhaps there are darker forces at play backstage. How different would the result be if people voted blind, as in the Voice? Honestly, Finland gave their 12 points to Norway, Iceland gave theirs to Denmark, and Denmark gave theirs to Norway, while Norway and Sweden gave each other top points. And only Denmark gave any points to Finland at all…

The best Nordic song of the evening was host Petra Mede’s “Swedish smörgåsbord”, see lyrics. It contains one line I am still hoping my Swedish colleagues will explain to me: “Our people are cold but our elks are hot, a horny horde in every fjord”, but even despite my failure to understand why the elks should deserve such specific mention, I give it douze points. In other words – Sweden won, again.

Icebreaker, Icebreaker May 2013, Nordic culture