The Eurovision Song Contest 2011

The venue of ESC 2011 in Dusseldorf offered a perfect set up for the biggest music show in the world

During a meeting in Monaco in 1955, EBU Director Marcel Bezençon (1907-1981) launched the idea of bringing Europe together in a televised, pan-European music competition in the style of the Italian San Remo Festival. At the same time, the Eurovision Grand Prix (as it was named back then) would be an ambitious experiment to broadcast live to several countries at the same time. That’s how it all started...

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The idea was approved during an EBU General Assembly meeting in Rome´s Palazzo Corsini, on the 19 October, 1955. The Swiss national public broadcaster proposed to organize the first Grand Prix, which was held on the 24th of May, 1956, in the city of Lugano. Seven countries were represented with two songs each - something that only happened in the first contest.

The Eurovision Song Contest is produced each May under the auspices of the European Broadcasting Union, and is a state-of-the-art, world-class television production of a competition between songs representing the respective countries of the participating EBU Members. Only Active Members of the EBU are eligible to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest and are authorized to apply.

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In 2004, the format of the Eurovision Song Contest was amended and a Semi-Final was introduced in the lead-up to the Final. In 2008, a second Semi-Final was added to the format. Under the Rules, up to 20 participants can compete in each Semi-Final.

The Host Country, as well as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are automatically qualified for the Final. In 2009 the EBU re-introduced professional juries, who got a 50% stake in the outcome of the Final. Since last year (2010) juries will also contribute 50% to the outcome of the Semi-Finals.

25 countries are represented in a spectacular Final. The winner is chosen by televoters and professional juries in the 43 participating countries. Traditionally, the winning country is invited to host the next running of the event.

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The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s biggest non-sporting live TV event and a strong household name among hundreds of millions of people in Europe. Every year, 100 to 125 million people in over 45 countries watch the televised competition. Famous former participants include Julio Iglesias, Olivia Newton-John, Céline Dion, ABBA, Johnny Logan, Alla Pugacheva, Secret Garden, Philip Kirkorov, t.A.T.u., Lordi and Patricia Kaas. The contest also saw the birth of Riverdance, which started as interval act at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, then took the world by storm, and became one of the most successful dance shows in history.

Feel Your Heart Beat!

In 2011, the visual identity of the Eurovision Song Contest was under the theme ‘Feel your heart beat!’. The theme refers to the great emotions which music can evoke – and which belong to the distinctive character of Europe’s favorite TV show: Enthusiasm, heart beating, excitement, love and passion. “There are no limits to these emotions, there are no language barriers. The theme also refers to the fact that every song has its individual rhythm,” Thomas Schreiber, Executive Producer Show of NDR explained. To follow this guideline was an exciting challenge for the whole Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) team to design, produce and broadcast one of the most spectacular events in 2011.

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The venue of ESC 2011 in Dusseldorf offered a perfect set up for the biggest music show in the world: 35,000 fans from all over the globe found their place around the center stage in a gigantic football arena which was transferred into a 15,000sqm TV studio. A LED backdrop of more than 1,250sqm offered every option to create individual designs for each of the 43 entries within seconds using video content or classical lighting, in addition to almost 2,500 moving lights, beams and profiles and the kinetic elements of the stage.

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A LED backdrop of more than 1,250sqm offered every option to create individual designs for each of the 43 entries within seconds using video content or classical lighting, in addition to almost 2,500 moving lights, beams and profiles and the kinetic elements of the stage.

The idea of the design for the show created by Jörg Grabosch (Show Producer), Ladislaus Kiraly (Show Director), Jerry Appelt (Lighting Designer),Florian Wieder (Set Designer), Dieter Thiessen (Head of Engineering), Ulrich Flug (Technical Manager), Ulli Fricke (Head of Sound), Ola Melzig (Stage Producer) and Frank Saelens (EBU Supervisor) was simple: Music is the heart of the show and therefore the artists and their performances was the center point of all the efforts of the team. The moment which makes you feel your heart beat, either as an artist performing on stage or as a fan celebrating one of the biggest parties around the globe, together with millions of viewers infront of their TV sets at home. Consistent with the theme, the heart was the key feature of the theme – it’s a symbol which is immediately recognized around the globe. The idea was inspired by last year’s winner, Lena, who formed a heart with her hands to thank all the people who had voted for her.

The Technical Realization

Like last year the ESC was produced and broadcast in high definition1080i with 5.1 surround sound and two-channel stereo. The signal was available all over Europe as well as in Australia and New Zealand. For the host broadcaster ARD there were two large HD OBVans on location: one from Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) and one from Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) respectively. The back-up scenario was implemented with these two vehicles. Both HD OBVans have pullout extensions to accommodate the personnel necessary to handle a production of this size

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Sony vision mixers, cameras and VTRs were used together with Stagetec Aurus audio consoles for the event. The Hard disk concept was based on an EVS server system. The entire redundantly designed signal distribution backbone for HD Video, 5.1 Audio and Ethernet was based on Riedel’s MediorNet and RockNet.

The artists performed their act with wireless microphones and in-ear monitiors from Sennheiser, the ambiance was recorded with wired microphones from Schoeps, while  Vizrt HD Engines were used by Molden to generate the graphics for the show. The 1,250sqm LED screen was supplied and installed by Creative Technology (CT) as well as the twelve 10m x 6m screens supported by twelve Barco FLM HD20 projectors. The PA loudspeaker system consisted of flown line-arrays from d&b Audiotechnik – J-Series systems supported with T10 delay lines and flown J-SUBs, as well as J-INFRA subs on the ground. For the FOH (Front of House) music mix and the FOH final mix Yamaha PM5D-RH consoles were in operation. For the control of the nearly 2,500 moving lights and beams the team used grandMA lighting consoles.

The Video Concept

The backbone of the whole signal distribution (video, audio, data and communication) between the stage, the production areas and the international broadcast compound was the Riedel MediorNet/RockNet. The system consisted of 70 MediorNet mainframes transporting more than 70 different HD/SD-SDI video signals more than 1.200 audio signals and 734 communications ports. It incorporated 11 Artist intercom matrix systems and the international commentary positions as well as the Ethernet data chains for the press center. The whole hardware installation was set up redundant and because MediorNet is a synchronous network, all the signals were transferred uncompressed and in real time.

To guarantee a trouble-free event the entire system was set up with at least one layer of redundancy. Redundancy was implemented not only in regards to cabling but also on a hardware level. Whether it was the redundant OB truck setup, the redundant MediorNet hubs or the possibility to broadcast via satellite or two 125 Mbit/s MLPS data links (also provided by Riedel), the redundant setup secured the system against single points of failure. The MediorNet/RockNet installation has opened a new level of flexibility for the production of the whole event, because in contrary to a point-to-point installation it was quite easy to re-route signals without tracking new cables and to have all the signals available at more than one access point. All the signals and fiber connections were monitored continuously and in addition the MediorNet offered a whole range of embeders, de-embeders, quad splits, time code inserters and video format convertors.

The performances of the artists from 43 countries were covered by 25 cameras (+ 4 back-up cameras). Ten Sony HDC-1500 cameras were mounted on pedestals while we saw nine handheld cameras in addition to the two Steadicams (two of the handheld cameras and the two Steadicams have been Grass Valley LDK-8000 with wireless adaptors, the other seven wired cameras again were Sony HDC-1500’s). However the most attractive images were shot by a whole bunch of special cameras (all delivered and operated by PMT): the Spidercam, a 360° wireless Railcam on a SAM dolly with Mambo remote head from Eurogrip, a Truckrunner from r-t-s with a Nettmann Mini C remote head on a ST6 tower and the 2D RopeClimber from r-t-s running a distance of 112m under the roof of the arena. Also in operation were three jibs and a Supertechno crane from MAT.

For the recording of the ISO-feeds, the PGM signal and the highlight editing NDR had set-up a network of eight EVS XT2 servers. One of them, an XT2+ with external storage, had a very special job: it was exclusively reserved for the rehearsals of the various trials of the artists on stage. After each trial the artists and their managers went to a dedicated viewing room equipped with an HD display and 5.1 surround sound where they had the possibility to check if sound , light, effects, camera angles, etc. were as good as expected. One EVS IPDirector was setup to handle simultaneous playout to different screens across different XT2 mainframes and to overlook the content management of the recorded materials (e.g. to sort the various rehearsal versions mentioned above) and to edit the highlights of the show.

In both HD OBVans (main and back-up) the camera signals were mixed on Sony MVS-8000 vision switchers. Due to the number of cameras (25 plus 4 back-up) and space limitations in the OBVans a separate shading control was setup in a double container, handling all the special cameras and the additional HDC-1500’s hired in from Presteigne Charter.

The Audio Concept

In-Ear Monitor Rehearsals
Already at last year’s ESC the rehearsal situation was a much more relaxing experience thanks to the “in-ear monitor rehearsal room” – an important innovative contribution from NRK. This contribution greatly impressed all the participating contestants and NDR included it also this year in the audio setup.

Great performance starts with proper working conditions on stage and is as important as the ability to produce a high quality mix. Therefore the rehearsal for each nation started in the so-called “in-ear monitor (IEM) rehearsal room” before the actual main rehearsal on the main stage. That means that the first rehearsal will be exclusively devoted to the monitoring. This special IEM room contains all the technical pre-requisites for a good initial monitor mix, such as a separate mixing console (Yamaha PM1D-V2) and all further necessary technical equipment. The console configurations of this rehearsal were saved in the form of a snapshot on a personal memory card, which then was imported into the monitor console (Yamaha) of the main stage. This concept again has proofed that the artists could start and work with the technical equipment in a relaxed atmosphere before they had their first rehearsals with proven conditions on stage.

Microphones & In-Ear Monitoring
In Dusseldorf Sennheiser supplied for the 24th time in the history of the ESC the wireless microphones. With its many years of experience and extraordinary competence in wireless audio radio frequency transmission, Sennheiser’s presence together with its partner MM Communications helped to ensure glitch-free and smooth execution.

The artists used the following tried and tested equipment on stage: the Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld transmitters with the Neumann KK104 capsule head and beltback transmitters with HSP-4 headset microphones, each coupled with the EM 3732 receivers. All participants using a headset microphone received a dedicated unit to ensure the positioning of the headset microphone remained constant. For the in-ear monitoring SR 2050 twin transmitters coupled with the EK 2000 beltpack receivers were used. For optimal results the participants had the choice to use their own custom-molded earpieces or a standard personal set of IE4 ear buds – and astonishingly, most of the participants decided for the IE4’s. The digital and analog outputs of the Sennheiser wireless receivers were used independently to feed an analog and a digital RockNet module. In this way hardware redundancy was achieved at the earliest stage. RockNet expansion cards for the digital Yamaha mixing consoles integrated the Yamaha PM5D consoles at the FOH and the monitor consoles into the audio network. The connections to amp racks in the ceiling and to the OB trucks in the TV compound were also realized via MediorNet and RockNet links.

PA & Monitoring
For the PA and monitoring services NDR choose the Yamaha PM5D-RH mixing console for the Front of House (FOH) music mix and the FOH final mix, as well as the Yamaha PM1D-V2 for the monitoring. All Yamaha mixing consoles (hired in from Neumann&Müller Event Technology) were configured fully redundant and thus were doubly available. With the Yamaha M7CL – the pre-check console – MM Communications performed the last wireless microphone check before the stage manager gave the go-ahead for the performance on the stage.

The loudspeaker system from d&b Audiotechnik was supplied by Crystal Sound. J-Series flown line-array systems with T10 delay lines and flown J-Subs, as well as J-Infra Subs on the ground delivered perfect quality, however the number of speakers necessary were tremendous: 8x E8 Compact, 28x J12, 96x J8, 112x T10, 8x J Infra and 28x J Sub! Flown Q1’s supported the stage area while M-Series wedges were recessed in the stage area which also simultaneously could serve as the back-up for the in-ear monitor solution.

TV Sound
For the final TV mix, managed by Ulli Fricke, NDR had the following resources available: Both OBVans and specially equipped double containers in which the music mixes and the final mixes were produced. The Containers had been especially arranged and purpose build for the ESC. They contained professional studio technology and offered the best possible acoustic audio conditions. In the end four fully equipped AURUS consoles from Stagetec were used for the final mix in stereo and 5.1 surround sound. Two of the mixing consoles were for redundancy. Also the additional audio equipment was state of the art and was coming from companies like Lexicon, Jünger Audio (with its brandnew T*AP processor & compressor, developed according to requests from NDR) and TC Electronic – to only name a few. The RL 903K 5.1 loudspeaker and the BASIS 14K LFEs came from Geithain. Geithain also co-developed the acoustic concept. The central playout center (POC) took care of the play-back feeds and was mainly equipped with the A!Tec EventDriver and ProTools systems, also fully redundant and with feedback-free linkages.

Viewing Room
The viewing room enabled the artists to evaluate their work on stage. It featured professional audio monitoring from Geithain and could be switched into stereo or 5.1 surround sound. To get an idea of the on-site audio monitoring situation, a synchronous comparison of the previously delivered full playback and the live recorded screen tests was available. The mono mix could be evaluated via a small loudspeaker, to enable realistic audio monitoring conditions which are still true for many home TV sets.

The Stage Concept

For all stage production related content NDR had hired Brainpool. Led by Producer Show Jörg Grabosch, Brainpool managed all aspects of the ESC with regards to the creative production of the show including staging, lighting, pyro, etc. Obviously Brainpool didn’t physically do all of it, however they managed the companies in charge of the following areas: Cape Cross (lighting and rigging), Creative Technology (LED Screen and Video Projection), Stage Kinetic (Moving Elements), MCI Studio Hamburg (Set Construction) and LunatX (Pyro). Brainpool also hired Jerry Appelt for the lighting design and Wieder Design for the set design and production of all the creative video content, e.g. the famous “Post Cards” which were produced with two RED MX cameras with 128GB flash memory modules. The complete RED equipment was hired in from Ludwig Kameraverleih.

Jerry Appelt, known for delivering big looks for music, television and everything in between specified a magnificent arsenal of lighting for the massive arena in Düsseldorf. More than 2,100 DMX controlled moving lights (5,638 fixtures total) with almost 42,000 parameters allowed 43 countries plus three interval acts and an over-the-top opening performance to have a completely unique look during the 3-hour broadcast.

100% control for all lighting and video came from MA Lighting. 4x grandMA2 full-size consoles, each with a full backup, as well as 5x grandMA2 faderwings ran all lighting and video, triggered via timecode. 11x MA NPU (Network Processing Unit) devices handled all traffic in one session on the MA-Net2. “It’s not even practical to do a show like this without timecode and grandMA2 is the best,” said Appelt, “Absolutely every millisecond is cued and then rehearsed again and again and again. There is no room for an error in a show of this size. The MA system delivered a great result.”

Four operators ran the desks: one for video, one for effect light, one for white light, and one for audience and Green room. Preprogramming began in Hamburg at NDR in March with the cost free grandMA 3D running on four custom built Cape Cross PCs. The team built moving paths for all moving trusses in grandMA 3D to show the exact positions of the lights in each song. In April and May the programming commenced in the arena in Dusseldorf. In total there were 70 patched universes and 2,921 cues.

Approximately 8.5km of truss were required to suspend the 280 tons of equipment for the show.  The truss structure, approximately 20 metres directly above the stage, consisted of three rings of 10m, 16m and 30m diameter, with a fourth ring over the satellite stage used for hosts and some of the performances. The main stage centre rings held 60x Clay Paky Alpha series fixtures – a mixture of Alpha Wash 1500, Alpha Beam 1500 and Alpha Profile 1500 fixtures, creating a variety of bright effects to the stage below.

Moving truss sections were arranged like spokes from the ring trusses. The truss sections held an additional 28x Alpha Wash 1500 and 36x Alpha Beam 1500 with four shorter truss sections holding 24x Alpha Wash 1500 fixtures.

Additional truss stretching the ceiling to the perimeter of the arena held 35x Alpha Profile 1500 and 42x Alpha Spot HPE 1500 fixtures. Finally, the top perimeter of the arena was home to an additional 50x Alpha Spot HPE 1500 fixtures. To match the intensity from above, Appelt placed 24x Alpha Beam 1500 and 24x A&O Falcon Xenon 3K flowers on the floor behind the stage and along the sides for a full range of effects. Appelt also specified 24x Clay Paky Sharpy fixtures for the floor surrounding the front of the stage specifically for Lena’s performance for Germany.

The A&O Falcon Flower is a unique xenon multi-beam effect-light with colour changer, pan-and-tilt movement, electronic and mechanical dimmer, douser, electronic strobe and integrated electronic power supply. An infinitely variable, rotating reflector produces up to 30 individual beams. The fixture delivered an exciting punch to many of the songs on Eurovision with multi-beam effects in the shape of stars or flowers or just a simple yet powerful beam.

Follow spots had full coverage as well with 6x Robert Juliat Aramis 2500W HMI DMX main spots on the platform, 5x Robert Juliat Victor 1800W HMI as back followspots on truss seats and 4x Robert Juliat Lancelot 4000W HMI followspots on the balcony. Lighting was supported with 48x ETC 750W Source 4 10° fixtures.

Cape Cross of Cologne, Germany provided all lighting and rigging for the show, sending 130 trailer trucks, each with 40 tons of equipment.

All video content was operated off 8x MA Video Processing Units (VPU), each with full backup. A Barco Encore system was responsible for routing the signals from the OB truck to the LED wall. Video equipment and servers were supplied by Creative Technology.

All media equipment was housed next to the FOH and operated by Michael Giegerich with a grandMA2 and managed by Stephan Flören (media server technician) who also operated the coolux Widget Designer. The graphics were created by the screen design team from Gravity.

Video content was displayed on a 67m wide by 18m tall Creative Technology Spider 30 N5 LED screen (~1.250sqm) forming the back wall of the stage. 2.100x Barco MiSTRIP 1480mm and 165x MiSTRIP 375mm plus 2.480x Barco MiTRIX tiles were used for visual detailing around the stage and the movable rings overhead. 12x Barco FLM R20 projectors were used for the 12 audience screens with a size of 10m x 6m each broadcasting the show acts to the spectators inside the arena. Even the satellite stage and Green room got special treatment with 400m of Schnick Schnack Systems strips built into surfaces which created a tremendous WOW when the LED screen opened.

Concert and Stage Producer Ola Melzig consulted with the delegations and artists regarding the details of each performance including lighting, video, pyro, sound and camera angles. “Video is one of the trickier elements as sometimes our team doesn’t get specific instructions on how each country wants their look. After the first round of rehearsals there are usually several requests for changes – even Spain completely changed their content the day of the final broadcast. Luckily, we had a very talented crew and some of the best equipment available. In the end, everyone walked away completely satisfied.”

The Graphics

Several graphic workstations (HD Vizrt Engines) were placed inside the BR OBVan and in containers close to the OBVans at the Interenational Broadcast Compound. Two of the engines were used for broadcast graphics and two for the voting graphics (always main and back-up). The workstations were controlled by laptops. The broadcast graphics were operated in the OBVan and the voting graphics were operated inside the arena under the supervision of the EBU. A Back-up system for the operations of the Vizrt Engines was provided for both – broadcast graphics and the voting graphics. Digame, the company entrusted to secure the collection and transfer of the voting results, provided the raw voting data which then was graphically enhanced for the broadcast by Molden with the Vizrt Engines.

Radio and Intercom

All important positions at the event, from the director to the follow spot operators, were integrated into a comprehensive communications infrastructure including Riedel Artist digital matrix intercom, Riedel Performer digital partyline as well as digital and analog radio systems. The distribution of this infrastructure was taken care of by Riedel Artist and MediorNet, translating into significant savings of time and effort during setup and installation. A Riedel Juggler interface and various Riedel RiFace modules integrated the radio infrastructure directly into the wired communications system. This allowed every unit of the 500 mobile TETRA radios to easily communicate directly with dedicated intercom ports and vice versa.

The Commentator Cabines

The ESC was broadcast to more than 120 million viewers worldwide. A total of 48 commentator booths were used for broadcasting the event. Each booth was equipped with a Riedel Artist CCP-1116 commentary control panel. These panels were just recently launched in the broadcast market at this year’s NAB in April. Also here an elaborate combination of Riedel Artist and MediorNet systems was used to set up the commentary infrastructure. The system at the commentary position was installed independently. Via MADI links it was connected to the MediorNet system of the arena, which was responsible for transporting the signals to the TV compound. Riedel Connect Duo ISDN codecs provided the ISDN connections needed for the commentator booths.

In addition to the commentator control panels, two TV screens were used in each booth. While one screen provided the program, the second monitor offered parallel information on the voting and additional camera positions simultaneously. Due to MediorNet’s integrated Quadsplit-feature this could be done within MediorNet without the need for additional hardware. 

EBU Switch & Transmission

The EBU Switch was was located in the MPS-Regie of ZDF near the HD OBVans. Here the EBU voting coordinaters were located. It was the nerve center for the incoming and outgoing video and audio signals. The native HD version of the ESC were available to broadcasters on two channels, on W3A and W2A satellite. A down converted SD 16:9 signal was available to broadcasters on W3A. All signals contained Dolby E audio. The three signals were routed and quality controlled before they were distributed on two different routes to the outside world. A mix of satellite and optical fiber (EBU’s Fine Network) was used. When needed safety devices could be activated to ensure a trouble free transmission. It was up to the 4:3 broadcasters to produce a SD 4:3 broadcast feed from the SD 16:9 signal or a downscaled version from the HD signal.

In order to receive the picture and sound of the 43 voting countries, a total of eight satellite channels were used. These channels were switched on and off by the respective countries at the voting coordinators’ request, rigorously following the voting sequence. This required a professional and disciplined attitude from all participating broadcasters. The reception of these channels in Dusseldorf was backed-up by a parallel reception in Helsinki and backhauled to Dusseldorf via the optical network. Eight channels were needed because the interventions on air by the spokespersons were much shorter than the time needed to establish and quality check a satellite connection. The voting coordinator talked to each studio seperatly to ensure that they were ready to give the votes and then requested the studio manager to switch the presenters ‘ microphone in Dusseldorf to the spokesperson’s earpiece. The voting coordinator then switched the signals from the voting countries one by one to the program director in the HD OBVan from where they were inserted into the final production.

The Power Concept

Having successfully supported the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 in Oslo, Aggreko was again awarded the contract to be the official supplier of the entire mobile power and temperature control system along with technical support. Due to their wealth of experience in supplying temporary systems for major events, Aggreko again provided a secure and uninterrupted supply of power and climate control.

A total of 6 synchronised 1250 kVA gensets were used to supply power for the stage, lighting and sound technology. The TV compound was supplied with a further 4 synchronised gensets, each with 500 kVA of power, with uninterrupted network switching to the existing fixed grid, meaning that emissions and fuel consumption were significantly reduced.

Five synchronised 500 kVA gensets were used for the press centre, with power supplied to over 700 workstations, various studios and offices, a stage, a large lounge area and the air-conditioning system. In addition, in the arena, 55 commentary boxes were individually air-conditioned. The challenge here was to find a solution that used as little space and made as little noise as possible.

The 30 Aggreko technicians put in 100 per cent commitment to lay a total of 85 km of power cables. Over 80 articulated lorries were used to transport all of the equipment. And of course, Aggreko was on site to provide 24-hour stand-by support.

The Voting

Viewers at home and professional juries in all 43 participating countries each determined half of the outcome of the Final of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest.

• Viewers voted by phone and/or SMS. The voting window opened at the start of the first song, and ended 15 minutes after the last song. They determine 50% of the outcome

• Professional juries in all 43 participating countries were invited to vote. They also determined 50% of the outcome. The jury, which consisted of five members (including a chairperson) was the same jury that voted in one of the Semi-Finals. Their decision was based on the second Dress Rehearsal, and the jury had to be convened during or shortly after the second Dress Rehearsal

• The combined results of jury voting and televoting was presented on air during the Final by spokespersons in all participating countries. As usual, the points 1 to 7 will appeared on screen. The spokesperson then revealed 8, 10 and 12 points.

Although Lena, who was defending her title, did not win, Germany still came in at a respectable 10th place. Final results put Azerbaijan as 2011 champion with the song “Running Scared”.

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