It's the most northerly we've ever been, so get your scarves out and join the excited throng of euro-fans preparing to slap their muffs together in the lower tundra of Finland. 42 nations are to step into the limelight in 2007, blowing the EBU's previous limit of 40 nations right out of the Baltic water, by two.

We have 4 debutant countries, namely Serbia (previously co-joined with Montenegro), Montenegro (previously co-joined with Serbia), Czech Republic, and Georgia. Austria have gladly decided to return to the fold after one year's absence. They deserve a bit of luck after their shambolic voting treatment in 2005. Hungary are back in, but Monaco have bowed out for this year (who clearly couldn't accept that the 1950's are over). The other three nations who didn't have the balls in the end are Azerbaijan, Italy (who have their own Eurosong called the San Remo Festival, even though it's mostly Italians taking part), and Slovakia. Oh, and don't forget Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, and San Marino who can still join in. Phew.

As for the latest news for 2007, details of the draw can be seen here. You can see the results here. In other news the chief for the Swedish department of the host broadcaster YLE, Kjell Ekholm said that some postcards will feature the quirkier side of Finland. “The (postcards) are going to feature some quirkiness. We are trying to strike a balance between Wife carrying contests, Swamp soccer, sauna endurance competitions and everything else. The theme could be the four seasons”. (HBL 15.7.)

Information on the Eurovision Song Contest Singers and Songs for this year along with my ill-informed comments can be found by clicking on a flag along with far more educated verba from our guest philosophers.

Albania Andorra Armenia Austria Azerbaijan Belarus
Belgium Bosnia Bulgaria Croatia Cyprus Czech Rep
Denmark Estonia Finland France FYROM Georgia
Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Israel
Latvia Lithuania Malta Moldova Monaco Montenegro
Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Romania Russia
Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland
January Calendar February Calendar March Calendar
Turkey UK
Apologies to Serbia and Montenegro for my lack of proper flaggyage.
After last year's roaring success where at least 144 Brits watched the semi final on BBC3, there will be 2 shows again, a semi and a final itself. They will be on...drum roll... Thursday the 10th if May, followed by the big final on Saturday the 12th of May. 14 countries make it straight through to the final, and 10 more will join them from the semi. 

If the nations are in Red, then they are automatically through to the final on Saturday      
If they are in Black, then they will need to justify their inclusion by getting through the knock-out Thursday marathon. The Blues aren't bothering in 2007.

As 2006, the first 1-7 points will now not be read out by the national spokesperson. In order to stop people waking up on the sofas at 1am feeling grumpy and ruining their Sunday, votes will only be read out for points 8,10,& 12. It is expected that this will cut down on the voting process, and put a smile on everyone's face. On the other hand, it will allow more time for the presenters to wow us with their variety act, which is not a positive development.

And the hosts are...the charming Jaana Pelkonen, born in 1977, has hosted many television programmes. Recently, she hosted the Finnish national semi-finals and final, together with Heikki Paasonen. Jaana also featured as host of the Finnish national selection for this year's Eurovision Song Contest, together with Heikki Paasonen and more than funny professor Simo Ffrangen.

She started her TV career in game show Tilt in 1998, after which she has hosted Jyrki, FarOut and Escort on MTV3. She worked for YLE’s radio channel Radiomafia in 1997-1998 and for Radio 99 in Lahti from 1995 until 1997. She is now working on her Master’s thesis in Political Science at the University of Helsinki.

Mikko Leppilampi, born in 1978, is an actor and singer, who graduated from the Finnish Theatre Academy. He got recognized with his role in the Finnish film Helmiä Ja Sikoja (2003), for which he was also awarded the Jussi Award for best male actor. He played in several Finnish movies, such as Keisarikunta (2004), Paha Maa (2005), Tyttö Sinä Olet Tähti (2005) and Saippuaprinssi (2006).

Mikko has also done film voice-overs most recently in Finnish version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. His latest role on stage was in the musical Hairspray, feauturing at the Helsinki City Theatre

Like last year, the winner and the nine top scoring countries from the previous competition will be granted an automatic spot in the Saturday final, meaning Armenia, Bosnia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine all get into the final with Greece on May 21. They will be joined by France, Germany, Spain and Britain, or the "Big 4".
These four, which usually top Eurovision viewing figures, are also "officially" the biggest contributors to the budget of the EBU, which represents 71 public service broadcasters covering every European country and more besides. The new rules save Britain from another exclusion in 2006, after we didn't score enough points to qualify directly in Helsinki.
If you are really hungry for the minutiae then why not take an arse-numbing look at the Official Rules for 2005 (pdf document) by pressing here (an extract of the 2007 rules are available here...again a pdf document).

Or a slightly more brief trawl can be found at this year's official site (which by the way is a noticeable improvement over previous years), namely

YLE (Yleisradio Oy) announced a €13 million budget for staging the various events in Helsinki. That does not include production costs which come from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – after collecting from all participating public broadcasters. The event’s theme will be announced later. (Oh, Lordi, imagine those meetings!) And, too, there’s a master of ceremonies to choose. And not to forget, Nokia executives to schmooze. This year’s Eurovision Song Contest drew an audience measurably larger than previous years. Roughly one-half of TV sets in use in the UK were tuned in to the final broadcast. Audience shares averaged 30% or higher in most of Europe, nearly 60% in Ireland and over 80% in Sweden.

The draw for the final included the fourteen countries who are already assured places, with ten open slots for those who score well in the Wednesday evening qualification heat. At the end of the show on May 10, a shortened version of the results will see the ten qualifiers named and linked to open spaces for the Saturday evening show. The ten qualifiers names will be in envelopes, the hosts will name the country that will take each remaining slot in the final order.
As for the semi final, there will be no spokesperson for televoting purposes for each country, and neither will there be a full rundown of the scoring, oh and neither will the songs be much kop either.
The handful of UK viewers, will get to know the order of the countries positioned from 11th to 22nd, and the total individual results of the semi final will be presented online after the Final. The dress rehearsals for the Final will continue as in previous years.

Also worth noting at this early stage is the proposals for 2008. It appears that everyone bar the winner in 2007 will be forced to take part in a qualifiying contest. It is currently being discussed that there will be two semi finals on the same night, with the nations split geographically in order to try to eradicate the recently perceived advantage Eastern Europeans nations have gained from their many friendly neighbours. By ensuring that an equal number of Western nations achieve qualification through to the final, the EBu hope to dispel the negative mumblings coming not only from the Big Four (who will also probably insist on maintaining their automatic qualification status) but also from other mainland Europe nations such as the Netherlands, Austria, etc. In theory I think it's a good move, but we'll see if Mr Stockselius can get the necessary buy-in from what is now a monster of a diplomatic organisation.