Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Sir Terry's take on Eurovision

Sir Terry Wogan on the Andrew Marr Show

Sir Terry Wogan will no longer be bringing his biting wit to bear as Eurovision Song Contest commentator.

Here he tells BBC entertainment reporter Colin Paterson why he has called time on his most infamous broadcasting role.

Why have you decided to leave now?
Why not? You can either wait until you get tired of doing it, or 'til the Eurovision gets tired of you. Men may come and men may go, only the river goes on forever.

Are you leaving because of the voting controversies?
I've been slightly disappointed at the UK showing over the last few years. The fact that of course you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to realise that since the eastern European countries have come in the voting has changed not necessarily for the best.

Western European countries, I feel, have got very little chance of winning it. However, this year may tell a different story with the might of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Graham Norton behind it.

I think it's an opportune time for me to leave because it might be the UK's turn next year.

Are you not then tempted to give it one more year?
I shall be sitting back at home with a dish of tea, cheering them on with word and gesture. There are exits and entrances and timing is very important. Leave while you're in love.

Terry Wogan in 2006
Wogan has become notorious for his tongue-in-cheek commentary

What was it like doing your first Eurovision in 1971?
It was in a tiny little theatre called the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin which is a music hall. There couldn't have been more than 300 or 400 people in it because there had to be room for all the equipment. Fifteen countries took part, and the two presenters sat in a theatrical box overlooking the stage, and when I think of the fact that in Copenhagen a few years ago there were 35,000 people in a football stadium and people running up and down the aisles selling vodka shots.

Is Eurovision too big now?
The Eurovision has got bigger and bigger and bigger, and there would be a case of saying that perhaps like everything that succeeds, it may be outgrowing its strengths.

Terry Wogan in 1992 with Michael Ball
He fears western European countries are on the backfoot

We now have two semi-finals as well as a final, and this is a kind of indicator or what European television is really like because they can't wait. It's actually three major entertainment programmes for the year, whereas, we kind of go 'for heaven's sake'. The way we look at it is with our tongues in our cheeks.

But that's not the reason why I'm going.

What's been your highlight?
The real highlight of course is Abba and Waterloo, that was 1974 in Brighton. And Riverdance, which made the small hairs stand up on the back of everybody's neck. But that was an interval act. It's the interval acts I remember, the clowns. I remember clowns coming on when I was doing the commentary for radio, and you think 'this is not going to work very well on the radio'."

There's rumours you have left because you want to perform next year.
There is no truth in the rumour, I must tell you, that I have been dismissed as commentator because myself and Aled Jones are going to sing little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth at the Eurovision Song Contest. Musical standards are not that high, but honestly. Come on, how far down do we have to go?

What do you think of your replacement, Graham Norton?
Terrific choice - he's witty, he's sharp, he's quick. He'll be perfect for it.

Abba in 1974
Abba - a firm favourite of Sir Terry

Any advice for him?
Don't dress up like the rest of the people. Wear something muted. You don't have to be as colourful as the people on the stage.

Does the UK have a fighting chance next year, with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber writing the entry?
There's a very good chance because he's been doing the rounds in eastern Europe, buttering up Putin, though Putin will only have one vote the same as everybody else, and he won't be able to guarantee the Russia votes. I think he put the fear of God into everybody last year. I should have put a ton of money on Russia, because I knew they were going to win, it was their turn.

I think it might take a couple of years before democracy really takes hold in eastern Europe, and they realise that it's a song contest. You're supposed to be voting for the best song, and it doesn't matter where that comes from.

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