I was investigating the Eurovision Song Contest last week as a prediction problem. No really it is an area of major research into how corruption agreements implicitly develop between countries. There are papers here, here and here.
But then I saw the odds for this year and there is something really odd happening. The odds from Paddy Power are here
So Azerbaijan a country that no one can spell is hot favorite. Which would not be too suspicious if they had ever had a song that wasn't entirely made up of goats being strangled before. The singer Safura and her Drip Drop has her obvious talents on display but is there something odd going on here?
After the conclusion of 2009 Eurovision, it was reported in Belarusian media that unknown people had allegedly paid and bribed students from Belarus to vote for Azerbaijan in the contest, and had even transported them to the Belarusian-Lithuanian border in 10 buses. The cost of this alleged action was claimed to be about 55 million rubles. They purportedly voted for Azerbaijan using Belarusian SIM cards, and then received Lithuanian cards to repeat the process. The Azerbaijani entry "Always" received 10 points from Belarus and 5 points from Lithuania.
So why does an old soviet country, with a pretty dodgy political system, that is 95% Muslim want so badly to win the worlds gayest contest? Turns out its a giant fight with Armenia. There is a war going on between them using the Eurovision as a battleground. I cannot wait till they get Johnny Logan in as a peace negotiator.
The Azerbaijan state broadcaster blocked out the voting number for the 2009 Armenian entry like some corporate logos in a rap video. Then and you can only read this in a full Borat accent "in August 2009, a number of Azerbaijanis who had voted for Armenia's entry during the 2009 Contest were summoned for questioning at the Ministry of National Security in Baku, during which they were accused of being "unpatriotic" and "a potential security threat". One of those summoned, Rovshan Nasirli, said that he was told by his interrogators that they had the names and addresses of all 43 Azerbaijanis who had voted for Armenia".
What is the cause of all this? According to the over 2000 word wiki article on the "Armenia Azerbaijan relations in the Eurovision Song Contest" it is Nagorno-Karabakh an area they both claim.
So it looks like Azerbaijan are willing to buy masses of fake simcards, bus people to other countries, bribe students and track down a few dozen people who voted the 'wrong way'. I wonder what is going to happen this time now that they seem to take the eurovision seriously?