Vienna turns on the gay lights ahead of Eurovision

From gay-themed traffic lights to singing sewers, Vienna is getting spruced up as it prepares to host one of the world’s most popular music competitions, the 60th Eurovision Song Contest.

With less than a week to go before the first semi-final, the Austrian capital has launched a series of original initiatives to celebrate the ESC’s anniversary edition.

Lights at 120 pedestrian crossings are receiving a quirky makeover: instead of the traditional single figure, they now show either a heterosexual or gay couple with hearts.

Officials said the revamped signals were signs of Vienna’s tolerance, celebrating not only the song contest, but also the HIV/AIDS charity Life Ball event on May 16 and the Rainbow Parade in June.

The installations are also part of a scientific experiment aimed at raising traffic awareness.

Local authorities said the signals had been replaced at junctions where people traditionally ignore the red lights, and want to test whether the new interfaces can change the public’s behaviour.

However, not everyone likes the campaign.

Toni Mahdalik of the right-wing FPO party called the initiative gender politics “gone mad”, and said the money would have been better spent on reducing poverty and unemployment figures.

Back on Vienna’s busy high streets and squares, sewers have swapped gurgling sounds for musical tunes.

Cleverly hidden stereo systems inside the gutters play Austria’s two winning Eurovision songs — one by bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, who won last year, the other by 1966 champion Udo Juergens.

They also promote this year’s entry, “I Am Yours” by Austrian trio The Makemakes, currently ranked 21st of the bookmakers’ favourites.

Austria is one of 40 nations taking part in the competition.

After the semi-finals on May 19 and 21, the remaining 27 countries — including first-time contestant Australia which has automatically qualified — will face off in the grand finale on May 23.

Overall, the contest is estimated to cost between 25 million euros ($28 million)and 27 million euros, according to Austrian public broadcaster ORF, which is organising the event.

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