Junior Eurovision Song Contest comes to Belarus

(Reuters Life!) - Kids from 10-15 years old will sing their hearts out this weekend in Belarus in the hopes of winning the children's version of Europe's biggest song show.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest -- in Minsk for the first time this year -- will host contestants from 14 countries competing for musical honor but not much money, organizers said.

"There is no big prize, nothing commercial," said Sietse Bakker, communications manager for the contest. "Our focus of attention is on participating, on having fun, on spotting talent."

Belarus, a country of 10 million wedged between Russia and Poland, has managed to win the eight-year-old competition twice.

Hosting the event, however, does not go to the winning nation -- as is the case with the grown-up version of Eurovision -- but is awarded in a bidding process.

"It's an enormous opportunity to show their country (Belarus) to the rest of Europe," Bakker said.

Belarus has been run along Soviet-style command lines by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994. Both the United States and the European Union have been critical of the government over its human rights record and urged democratic reforms.

In the past couple of years, however, Lukashenko, has been trying to thaw the country's ties with the West, seeking investment for an export-oriented economy that has been hit hard by the global financial crisis.

Bakker would not disclose the costs behind the Junior Eurovision event, but said that it has been funded by the Belarus state broadcaster and fees from participating countries.

Proceeds from Saturday's broadcast of the contest will go to the United Nations children's fund UNICEF, Bakker said.

Belarus native Alexander Rybak, who won the adult version of Eurovision in Moscow in 2009, will open the show on Saturday.

(Writing by Lidia Kelly, editing by Paul Casciato)


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