Eurovision 2011 Post-Mortem

A few days have passed, the dust has settled, and it’s time to initiate a post-mortem on the Eurovision 2011 result.

On a personal note, my return of nearly 40% on a betting bank of £160,000 was my most successful Eurovision yet. Like everyone else, some things I called correctly, some things I definitely did not. Eurovision is always going to produce its fair share of surprises. The trick is to get more things right than wrong – or, failing that, to have more money on the things you get right.

The final was a classic example of this for me, and a reminder of why I look outside the win market for almost all my bets. Most of my profit came from finding various different ways to back just one strongly-held view – that fan favourite Hungary would do badly. If I’d been wrong about this, it would have wiped out my takings from the semis and more. But having got this one right, I could afford to be surprised by certain other aspects of the final result about which I’d felt much less strongly beforehand.

Anyway, what can we learn about Dusseldorf 2011 to file away for Baku 2012? Here are my top five take-home messages.

1. Azerbaijan won by default

Without wishing to denigrate what was a highly competent package, very effectively staged, I do feel that Azerbaijan was in many ways a default winner. I say this despite liking the song and having profited from its success.

The evidence? A low winning score in comparison to other years, only three awards of 12 points (two of which came from natural allies Turkey and Russia), and scoring from a smaller range of countries than some other entries. As I stated in my original article, ‘Running Scared’ ticked lots of boxes in being both jury- and televote-friendly and able to rely on Azerbaijan’s traditional Eurovision supporters. Once the draw panned out in its favour, this proved to be the last piece of the jigsaw in ensuring its success.

2. Eric Saade should be cursing his luck

Had the running order to Saturday’s show happened to be in reverse order to the actual one, I think we would be going to Stockholm next year instead of Baku.

Many of Azerbaijan’s main rivals were stuck in the first part of the draw. Sweden (who finished 3rd from a draw of 7), Denmark (5th from 3) and Bosnia (6th from 2) all did very well given this disadvantage. But while Bosnia struggled to appeal beyond its natural constituency, and Denmark relied mostly on western votes, Sweden proved most able to garner points from eastern and western Europe – Saade was ‘Popular’ everywhere. In fact, despite being caught in the middle of a strong run of uptempo songs early in the show, Sweden scored points from more countries than anyone else – including the winner.

The B-side to ‘Popular’ should surely be ‘Unlucky’. Saade was the last of the qualifiers to draw his slot in Saturday’s running order, and with four songs left to draw, positions 7, 18, 20 and 23 were still up for grabs. I reckon that if Saade had been left with any of the other three, he’d have won.

3. We shouldn’t read too much into the high-profile failures

Of the fancies that failed, it’s hard to extrapolate too much from their disappointing showings. It’s tempting to conclude from the dismal result for ‘Sognu’ that classical crossover simply has no appeal to a Eurovision audience – and, not personally being a fan of the genre, I won’t mourn if we don’t see much more of it. But we also have to consider the fact that France’s Amaury Vassili turned in a very below-par performance on the night.

We can also see the failure of Blue for the UK as adding to the poor record of entries with more than two lead vocalists in recent years – the girlband or boyband has not been a successful Eurovision formula for decades. But against that, we need to remember that they did themselves no favours with a poor performance during the jury rehearsal.

Estonia was the other market leader to bomb. Perhaps the cleverness of the composition, while admirable, was just never the type of thing that would work well at Eurovision. But it also suffered from staging that was as disjointed as the song.

4. Perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about slightly dodgy vocals

I agree with the comment from fiveleaves after the final that factors such as staging and draw are proving to be more important than perfect vocals. Azerbaijan this year was a fine example of only adequate vocals, but a highly effective presentation of a decent song. Likewise for Sweden, which I’ve argued would have won with a better draw – the staging and glass-smashing gimmick were far more important factors in its good showing than Eric’s vocal ability.

This is starting to look like a trend. Lena’s vocals were certainly not spot-on last year, whilst Norway’s victory in 2009 was all about the song, Rybak’s charm and the staging too.

We can point to Ukraine and Greece this year as examples of countries which managed to lift their song to heights that would not have been otherwise expected thanks to a memorable stage show. Although both of these also featured fine vocals, I would suggest that the lesson for Baku is the power of staging to allow a song to punch above its weight.

5. Expect the unexpected in the semis

The jury system and splitting of the voting blocs in the semi-final really came into its own this year. It was surprising enough when both Turkey and Armenia failed to qualify from the first semi-final – but once the detailed results had been revealed after the final, we learned that Serbia and Russia weren’t far off either, in eighth and ninth positions.

Meanwhile, friendless outsider Malta was only one point away from a shock place in the final. Similarly, in semi-final two, friendless outsider Belgium was also just the one point away – I’m guessing ‘With Love Baby’ must have received plenty of jury votes. We’ll find out when the EBU release them, which on past form should happen in the next few weeks.

Had either Malta or Belgium qualified, I can tell you that the sound of the press centre’s collective jaw hitting the floor would have been heard all over Europe.

On the subject of the press centre, this was my first Eurovision reporting live from the event, and it was a fascinating learning experience for me to watch the TV feed of all the rehearsals. But in punting terms it was less of an advantage than you might expect. When I look at my biggest successes this year, I’m pretty sure I’d have reached the same conclusions from reading others’ blogs and watching the youtube footage, as in previous years. I tried to pass on my own first-hand impressions as objectively as I could, but my main advice remains to use your own objectivity to judge what you see and read.

I hope to be reporting for Sofabet again from Baku next year. In the meantime, UK readers may like to know that the next event we’ll be covering here on Sofabet is Britain’s Got Talent, and we’re already looking forward to both UK and US X Factors in the autumn.

What are your own take-home messages from Eurovision 2011? Do you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said? Please do let me know in the comments box below.

35 comments to Eurovision 2011 Post-Mortem

  • Eloise

    Well done, Daniel, on yet again making such a substantial sum on the contest. You must have nerves of steel to be dealing with such large sums, which make my own fun bets seem feeble! Totally agree though, that the best value is found outside the winner’s market, and I’ve been backing qualifiers for many years now, going with gut feelings about how a song will appeal and trying to spot what the bookies have maybe missed. Not an exact science, but you can then use winnings from semis to finance a top 10 place in final. Roll on next year!

    • Daniel

      Hi Eloise, I’m not sure about nerves of steel – you should see the look on my face as the results are read out! The system you have developed is exactly the same as my own: using the winnings from semi qualifiers to plough back into the Top 10 market.

      I find it’s usually easier to predict that country X will finish anywhere from 1st to 10th, or anywhere from 11th to the bottom of the scoreboard, than something more specific.

  • stevobaggio

    I would agree with you, I learnt alot this year, mainly because I went with the win market initially, but after hearing my chosen winner had performed badly in the marked rehearsal, i changed method and lumped Sweden top top 10 @ 2.28, this covered my losses from winner market and gave me a small pofit too.
    Deffinetly looking forward to taking my new found knowledge into next year, cheers Dan

  • I reckon my main take-home message from this one is hedge, hedge and hedge again rather than relying on actual results – my only two selections which brought a return were Greece to beat Turkey in the semi, and Armenia to not qualify. I was only on the latter because of a last minute loss of confidence on what seemed a “no-brainer” bet from March.

    My other message would have to be the old standard “past performance is no guarantee of future returns…”. Most of my losses stemmed from an absolute conviction that Sweden with a song like Popular was a spent force in modern Eurovision, contrasting with Russia being almost guaranteed a top placing given a west-friendly uptempo and obvious signs that they wanted to win. I still don’t particularly understand their relative results, and Russia receiving nothing higher than an 8 was a real shock to the system.

    Next year I’ll make greater efforts to spot early bookmaker errors like this year’s 2/1 Armenia to qualify, safe in the knowledge that the herd will descend and it’ll be possible to secure a profit long before anybody sings a note. 🙂

    Thanks for all the guidance this year, and enjoy your winnings!

  • Daniel

    Hi Nick, I know where you’re coming from. I had felt that Russia would out-perform Sweden for those very same reasons, and the first rehearsal seemed to confirm that would be the case.

    But Vorobyov’s increasingly nervous performances and Saade’s growing confidence was a reminder not to dive in on the basis of the first rehearsal. The former was awful during the final jury rehearsal in particular.

    I suppose both had paper-thin songs that needed lifting by performer and staging. Saade and Sweden managed it, cheesy Vorobyov (“can you feel my heart beat, Dusseldorrrrrf?”) and Russia did not.

    Thanks for the Greece/Turkey heads up and hope to see you next year in Baku.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Also hope to see you in Baku, though my initial assessments are that it’s too expensive and difficult a trip for me to contemplate. My OnEurope colleagues have been known to convince me otherwise before now, but not always. 🙂

      As a point of note, make sure that you’ve done your homework on Azerbaijan betting laws before you make travel arrangements of your own. If CasinoTimes is a reliable source, you may find that you can’t get access to any betting sites – which would kind of defeat the object!

      • Daniel

        Hi Nick, this was my first concern after the end of the show. There are ways to manage this situation which I will look into long in advance of next year’s contest.

  • bunnyman

    Hi Daniel

    Thanks for a very interesting interesting series of article and a great post mortem. I have a question. The introduction of the juries (in 2009?) and the opening of phonelines at the start of the programme (from 2010?) should both help neutralise the impact of the draw. Could the success of Sweden with a song that many of us really didn’t rate pre contest, plus the success of Denmark and Bosnia be a sign that these relatively new factors are starting to have a visible impact in helping balance out the impact of the draw?

    Well done on a profitable contest and several very solid calls.



    • Daniel

      Hi bunnyman, the phone lines have been open from the start of Junior Eurovision for a number of years now, and results there indicate the vast majority of calls are still made at the end of the show, and the winner still seems to be consistently drawn near the end of the show. Of course, juries should also be more “draw-neutral”, so there is a general argument that the draw may be less relevant.

      However, this year’s results in the semi-finals and final still seem to show a bias towards those drawn towards the end. The semi-final qualifiers are one case in point, It just so happened in this year’s final that many of the strongest entries were in the first eight or so songs. Bosnia, with Dino Merlin’s committed fanbase among those in and from the Balkans, would have done as well as he did from anywhere in the draw, I would argue. Denmark, had a song tailor-made for Eurovision, that was also going to stand out.

      I’d argue that neither were done any favours by the running order – both had easily defeated Ukraine in the semi-final, but with the draw advantage reversed in the final (in Denmark’s case at least), finished comfortably behind Mika Newton on Saturday night.

  • bunnyman

    You could argue that Azerbaijan had a better draw in the semi, yet they only came second. When I saw the draw for the final it seemed a decent draw numerically, but I thought she might suffer by comparison with Austria before and Slovenia after. Of course in the semi final Turkey and Armenia would have eaten into their vote, but in the final they had the benefit of other voting partners who had been kept from them in the semi. This whole ESC is an interesting and complicated subject that sometimes defies logical scrutiny.

    I’m really not saying the draw doesn’t matter, it clearly does, and as I’ve not done any meaningful analysis of this years results or 2010’s results due to other commitments, so I can’t speak from a position of authority anyway. But surely these new factors must have had some impact. As you said Sweden doing so well from such a poor draw was a remarkable achievement and I’m sure that the draw neutralisation measures must have played at least a small part in that.

    • Daniel

      Hi bunnyman, I do think that the theory of what you say has a lot going for it. One thing I will point out, however, is that Azerbaijan with a ‘better’ draw in its semi-final did only come second. But then the only song to beat it was the one drawn last. The beuaty of its draw in the final was that no serious contenders had an even later slot in the running order.

  • Rob

    Hi Dan,
    Well done on some brilliant analysis – I still kick myself for not discovering Eurovision many years earlier as an excellent betting medium. I’ve only taken it seriously in the last 2 years and turned a profit also in the region of 40 per cent. On the subject of staging, I think it was a further blow to Blue that their song was staged so poorly, whereas it must have been a big boost for Jedward. How well songs are performed vocally remains important too – you called it that the UK and Serbia under-performed in front of the juries, and in the semi I thought it was noticeable how much Dino Merlin struggled vocally (whereas in the final he was right on the money). There was an issue with his earpiece I read somewhere. Amaury was clearly off-key at the start of Sognu as well.
    Given how surprisingly well nations like Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland and Lithuania did I sense there was a directive sent out to the juries to be generous towards certain nations lacking voting friends but with ‘worthy’ song entries. This must surely be the case with Italy also – juries told to support it on Italy’s return as they no doubt want Italy to remain in the contest in future years as part of the new Big 6.

    • bunnyman

      Rob, these juries are made up of 6 music industry types, and as I understand it there are different people every year. I don’t believe the sort of directive you suggest could go out to 258 people and stay secret. Imagine if you were the Turkish or Armenian jury getting directions which are clearly designed to handicap you. In the case of Armenia, if such a directive had gone out it would without doubt have cost them the one point they needed to have qualified. I think they might have had something to say about that.

      It wouldn’t surprise me though if individual jurors took it upon themselves, either consciously or sub consciously to operate their own little handicap system. If I were a juror and I was struggling to decide between Belgium and Armenia for top place I’d go for Belgium as I know they need my help more. Similarly I’d put the act going 2nd in the draw above the act going 2nd last if I liked them equally for similar reasons.

  • Eloise

    I agree with your point about Azerbaijan winning by default, again, not wishing to detract from the fact that it’s a pleasant song, and had been one of the favourites from the outset. Having looked at the fascinating Eurostats in the back of John Kennedy O’Connor’s excellent official history book, it becomes clear that no song in the history of the contest since the current voting system was adopted in 1975, has won with such a low % of the overall points available. Every song since 1975 has captured at least 50% of total votes, with the exception of Greece 2005, who achieved 46.7%. Azerbaijan won this year with just 42.8% of total vote, and I again agree that all the strong entries were drawn early, which really helped the song stand out as being the best of the group that surrounded it. It’s very interesting how so many factors come into play and influence the outcome, and gives us all plenty to analyse at great depth, instead of getting on with all those jobs around the house and garden crying out to be done!

  • RogerL

    Re: Sweden versus Russia in the final.

    As these shows resembling of each other and performed so close to each other – I wonder if not the later feels like a (bad) copy of the first?

    What if they had had reversed starting order…

    Well, Russia used some cheap tricks – LED lightning everywhere. I guess that was the reason for Sweden to remove its rater discrete LEDs…

  • peter

    Hi Daniel,
    I agree with all of the 5 takeaways you list. Azerbaijan won by default, no doubt, particularly when you consider that, I believe, 13 countries gave them no points at all. Remarkable. Fiveleaves point re draw and staging will be interesting to monitor next year.
    Really looking forward to your BGT insights. FYI I have a 64% return on specials over the last 5 years with the X factor eliminations and winner being a strong contributor. Thanks for all that you do.

  • fiveleaves

    Cheers for the mention Dan.

    I’d agree Azer won slightly by default, but it was a very worthy winner imo, as it actually had a melody unlike the Swedish entry which was all about style over substance.

    As for the vocal point. Russia’s failure compared to Jedward and Eric’s success, adds more weight to that argument.

    The Russian guy was clearly a better singer than Eric and Jedward (a touch of the Rick Astleys about his voice), but the song was dreadfully naff and the staging never really came together as Jedwards and Erics did.
    Popular and Lipstick weren’t great songs either. Although that’s possibly my prejudice against many modern pop songs and especially against Eric who I just wanted to slap. I only found anything of worth in the song when I just listened to it and didn’t have to look at his cocky face.
    For me a pop song is not a pop song unless you want to get up and dance to it and many of these modern pop songs fail that test.
    Including Popular and Lipstick which all you can do is jump up and down and scream to, if you’re girl of a certain age.

    Last years winner was a real toe tapper and therefore a proper pop song for me.
    For some reason I had a picture in my mind of Ola & James Jordan dancing to it the 1st time I heard it.
    That’s probably just the odd way my brain works though 😉

  • fiveleaves

    I do also wonder how much Eric and Jedward suffered from their early draws.
    They’re were both songs with pretty niche appeal and I can’t imagine many teenage girls deserting them because they were on early.

    The likes of Bosnia and especially Denmark, which were much more coherent songs with broad appeal suffered much more because of the draw, I suspect

    • Daniel

      Hi fiveleaves, there is another theory which I’m buying into that Sweden won the televote ahead of Azerbaijan, and was thus denied by the juries. There is a strong possibility that Azerbaijan was behind Italy in the jury vote as well as behind Sweden in the televote, but was a sort of ‘Alternative Vote’ winner.

  • fiveleaves

    That wouldn’t surprise me at all.
    That would mean the juries ruined it’s chance of winning rather than the running order.

    That’s bad news longterm for the show.
    As I’ve said I didn’t like the song and disliked Eric even more, but if you ask the people of Europe to spend their money phoning up for their favourite then that favourite should win and not be overturned by so called experts.

    It’s also rather ironic as the juries were supposedly brought in to weaken the effect of the diaspora and friendly neighbour vote and yet in this case they may have pushed a song that benefits from both of those to the top, ahead of one that doesn’t.

    The same could easily have happened last year and suspect would have done if Lena wasn’t causing such a stir on youtube and various radio station around Europe in the run up to the contest.

    Personally I’d be in favour of them getting rid of the juries again.

    Let the public decide, even if they decide to vote for rubbish like Popular.

    • bunnyman

      Hi Figgy, I disagree, I think the juries are essential to the long term health of the show. Without them you’ll get a mass defection of the diaspora poor countries which would make it harder than ever for a country like Sweden to win. There’s no perfect solution, but I think they are doing a reasonable job under the circumstances.

  • I have to say I have enjoyed reading your thoughts and advice for this year’s contest. Although I didn’t bet anything myself (and don’t plan on doing so in the future), it’s useful to have the perspective of someone who actually risks losing money on his predictions. I also appreciate the fact that you don’t try to come off as some kind of betting god, pointing out that the surefire bets can get you a long way even if you are way off in other bets.

    Now for something that you all might enjoy when you’re doing your post-contest analyses: I put together an interactive map of the 2011 Eurovision results. Have fun!

    (Note that the map only covers the results of the final and doesn’t work in Internet Explorer. In fact, betting on what kind of features will work in which browsers sounds like a lucrative market. ;))

  • N Baker

    I have to wonder just how likely it is that Armenia or Turkey will fail to qualify again in the near future – surely having Belgium, France, the Netherlands *and* Germany all voting in the alternate semi is extremely unlucky, and even then Armenia was only a point short of qualification. With that in mind I’m tempted to still think of them as guaranteed qualifiers in 95% of situations

  • Rob

    I think it should stay 50/50 because I hate the idea of acts like Eric Saade and Jedward rising to the top purely on the back of the feverish televoting of teen girls. If the ESC goes down that path it will end up nothing more than X Factor with manufactured dross dominating and genuine music talent being snubbed. I think it is disappointing as it is that Nadine Beiler and Maja Keuc failed to reach the top 10 with decent songs and brilliant vocals. Azerbaijan was a worthy winner regardless of possibly finishing second in both the jury and televote – if that was the case then I think that is actually a triumph for AV.

  • bunnyman

    Hi Daniel, was there are discussion about what went wrong for France? Did he just crumble under the pressure on the night or had the Jedward mafia kidnapped his family? It really was a shocking performance. Of course there are a few gloaters on betfair who see his 15th place as proof that us France backers were mugs, but I’m not convinced and I think they might have had a lucky escape. With something like that it is all about vocal perfection, anything less is gonna appeal to virtually nobody. For every 10 people that might have voted for a perfect vocal performance I would be surprised if 1 of them would have voted for that pile of crap. So its possible imo that had he delivered the performance that we expected that his televote might have increased by a factor of 10, in which case I think he would have won.

    • Daniel

      Hi bunnyman, Amaury Vassili put up a very poor performance on the night – I’m not sure whether it was down to nerves or another reason – he didn’t seem happy with his earpiece as soon as he stopped singing. You’re right that he needed to nail the vocal performance, and he had done this during early rehearsals. I do think that the contest was up for grabs, given its open nature: ‘Sognu’ had the potential to be a stand-out in a year that was otherwsie lacking in them, despite my issues with the song and uncertainty about how this niche would translate into mass votes. However, whether Vassili would have done it with a perfect performance, we can now only guess. It was one of those early bets I was very happy to hedge once it became very short.

  • annie

    Split jury & televote results are up on and .
    there are some surprises (for me at least) but with a few exceptions I prefer the jury votes, the songs which i really thought were rubbish (Georgia,Russia,Bosnia) were where i thought they belonged, out of the final and not where their strong diaspora and many friends put them,in the final with decent placements.
    I am a bit surprised that: Jedward actually scored better with the juries rather then the televote; that Slovenia was so appreciated by the jury and Austria so very little by the televote. and that Hungary,UK,Spain and (especially)Switzerland were so far back with juries.
    Big wow for Lithuania topping semifinal 1,i really thought that song is cliche and her vocals were average, another wow for Slovenia topping semi 2. I thought out of the few ballads in the competition Austria’s was the best but obviously neither jury or televoters agreed with that.
    I think my conclusion is what Daniel already mentioned in one of his early articles, Germany’s win last year made me forget a bit too much how how votes and results come-around-go-around at Eurovision.

    • bunnyman

      The juries failed to appreciate France as much as some of us expected, but they loved Italy. Curious. Austria would have come 2nd last had it been down to the public alone. Incredible. Russia bottom of the Jury votes in the final, so much for my theory that they would reward the songwriting pedigree of Red One.

  • annie

    The juries were probably a bit biast towards entries that were good, but not expected to score well n televoting. i’m not sure if it was on purpose or some subconscious feeling. i think they discussed with the german jury at one point that if they can’t decide which one to give points between two acts they starts considering what the running order was for example.
    and it is good so.

  • Justin

    Whats happened to the Sofabet team? I have visions of Daniel quaffing champagne in an exclusive rooftop bar….

    Anyway just read (on a rival, but inferior, site) that the televoting for Eurovision is going to revert back to only being opened after the last song has been performed. So the goalposts are moving again.

  • Daniel

    Hi Justin, thanks for your concern 😉

    The Sofabet team is alive and well. The site is quiet at present because the summer lull in TV schedules means there is little for us to cover until the new series of ‘X-Factor’ begins in the UK. I did make it to one of the auditions (as a member of the audience, I hasten to add), for research purposes. We’ll be reporting on that and other related stuff when the series kicks off.

    You’re right about the change in voting rules on Eurovision. As we have informed Sofabet readers on a number of occasions, even when lines were open at the start of the show, the vast majority of votes (I have heard it suggested about 80% of them) come after the final song has been performed. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what impact this change has, the suspicion being it will further help entries drawn towards the end of the show (who seem to benefit even when lines are open throughout).

    I hope all is well with you.

  • Tim

    Hi Daniel,

    How come you don’t cover Big Brother on this site?

    • Andrew

      Hi Tim, Sorry for the delayed response.

      Good question! The short answer is that we don’t feel we have anything sufficiently insightful to say about it (neither Daniel nor I have watched previous series religiously). The longer answer is that we’d like to cover it, because we aspire to be comprehensive, but we haven’t yet figured out how best to do it (suggestions welcome!). We’ll keep an eye on the coming series and see what we can come up with.

  • The key take-home message from the very surprising results in the first semifinal is that jury voting in the semifinals – which was only introduced in 2010, unlike jury voting in the final which was introduced in 2009 – makes the semifinals much more unpredictable than ever before. Not just in terms of geographic/diaspora prediction but also in terms of song taste. If it had been televote alone, all three of the big shockers that didn’t get through the first semi in 2011 – Turkey, Armenia and Norway – would all have qualified, as they all were in the top 10 of the televote. Instead, Lithuania’s languid chanson WON the jury vote, with Switzerland and Serbia also scoring highly. Turkey, Armenia and Norway were 7th, 9th and 10th in the televote (so would have qualified but only just), but only came 12th, 15th and 17th in the jury vote, thus dooming them. So general advice: before making any bets this year that you’re think you’re sure of (ie. “Turkey/Armenia/Georgia will definitely get through because they always get through”), stop and consider the jury and whether it’s a jury-type song. As a rule, the juries don’t like fluff (Boom Boom, Haba Haba, Kejsi Tola in 2009) – even if it’s good fluff. They will vote up seriously-performed ballads by attractive young professional female singers with good voices (Lithuania and Slovenia winning the jury vote in their respective semis, Austria coming fourth in its semi). The juries are domestic music industry figures who are largely male and straight and not contest fans per se, so europop fan favourites like Kati Wolf and Haba Haba aren’t their cuppa. If it had been down to them, Belgium’s a capella group, Senit for San Marino and the twins for Slovakia would all have qualified too. The juries vote for earnestness.

    • Daniel

      Hi eurovicious, this is outstanding analysis that I can’t fault. Juries do make the semi-finals far less predictable, and it’s another reason to concentrate most on the Top 10 final market.

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