Fifty Facts On Eurovision

THE OPENING

01 The contest always begins with the playing of the fanfare “Prelude To Te Deum” by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, which has become known as the “Eurovision Anthem”.

02 Each contest from 1956 to 1977 featured just one presenter. From 1978 to 1995 there were either one or two presenters, from 1996 to 2009 always a male-female duo (except 1999 when there were three). From 2010 to 2012 a trio became the norm until 2013 when Petra Mede became the first to fly solo for eighteen years. 2014 saw a return to a threesome, but uniquely it was two blokes and one lady!. 2015 saw an all-female trio but 2016 saw a return to one man and one woman.  2017 saw an all-male threesome in a contest whose slogan was “Celebrate Diversity”.

03 Katie Boyle has compered no less than four Eurovisions (1960,1963,1968 and 1974). The only other multiple presenters have been Jacqueline Joubert (1959,1961) and Petra Mede (2012, 2016).

04 It’s now fairly traditional for the previous years winner to be performed at the beginning of the contest by the singer, but this has only been common since Johnny Logan reprised his second winner in Dublin 1988. Before that it was quite common though for the contest orchestra to perform the previous winner in a prelude before the compere took to the stage. The reigning champion has also often been able to promote their latest, post-Eurovision song. This reached new heights in 2014 when Emmelie de Forest’s new song was not only performed at the contest final but was also on the official CD (and outsold many 2014 entries in the post-contest download charts).

THE RULES

05 All Eurovision songs must be no longer than three minutes.

06 Every Eurovision up to 1998 had a live orchestra. Since then it has been optional, and never utilized, mostly for economic and logistical reasons. Each country would send a conductor to the contest along with their artists, and the stage entrance of the conductor was an integral part of the contest.

07 The rules surrounding nationality have always been rather lax, and it’s generally down to each country to make it’s own rules. The singers can usually come from anywhere, normally the songwriter(s) have to be native, but not always.

08 None of Luxembourg’s five winners came from the Grand Duchy. Four were French and one (Vicky Leandros) Greek.

09 Groups of more than three were not allowed into Eurovision until 1971. Even now, no more than six people are allowed on stage (including backup singers and dancers).

THE STATISTICS

10 There have been sixty-five winners over sixty-two contests (as there was a four-way tie in 1969). That total comprises thirty-eight female soloists, ten male soloists, eleven groups and six duos (one all female, two mixed-sex and three all-male). NB. We have counted the 2014 winning act as female ;o))

11 A total of fifty-two nations have competed in the contest overall, including countries with more than one incarnation.  Germany was technically West Germany only before 1990 but as the old East never competed (and now never will) it stays as one nation. However only fifty-one countries have competed in a contest final as Andorra has yet to qualify for a final. Serial DNQ-ers Montenegro and San Marino both qualified for their first final in 2014 and the Czech Republic broke their duck in 2016.

12 Portugal in 1964 and Lithuania in 1994 are the only countries to score “Nul Points” on their debut.

13 After Portugal’s win in 2017 the country waiting longest for it’s first win is now Malta, who have been competing since 1971, followed by Cyprus (1981) and Iceland (1986). Of these, Malta came within a whisker of success in 1998/2002 and Iceland were runner-up in 1999/2009.  Cyprus have never come close.

14 In 1969 four countries tied for first place and as there was no tie-breaker they all shared the prize. Since then the rules for a tie have sometimes altered. Firstly there would have been a re-vote, then it became the song with the most top marks, and now it is the song with votes from the most countries. Simples.

15 Israel have competed at Eurovision since 1973 despite obviously not being part of Europe. The contest is open to active members of the European Broadcasting Union, which includes several North African countries, some of whom would no doubt compete if Israel did not (Morocco took their chance in 1980 and Lebanon chose an entry in 2005 but were thrown out after their TV suggested they would blank out the Israeli song). Australia were invited as a “guest” in 2015 but their participation now seems ongoing.

16 Ireland lead the medal table with seven wins but the 2015 contest saw Sweden creep up to just one win behind,  followed by the UK, France and Luxembourg on five each.

17 In every contest from 2001 to 2008 the winning country had never won Eurovision before. On a similar note, going into Baku 2012 the last sixteen contests had had sixteen different winners, by far the longest stretch in contest history. Sweden broke that sequence, having last triumphed in 1999.  Since 2009 the only first time champs have been Azerbaijan in 2011 and Portugal in 2017.

18 Austria and Norway lead the roll-call of Nul-Pointers with four but just one behind are  Finland, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.

19 The Greece/Cyprus twelve points vote exchange is far and away the most recurring predictable vote.

20 Only seven of the first fifty-four winning songs had one-word titles but 2007-2010 saw four consecutive ones.

THEN AND NOW

21 The first contest featured just seven countries, each of whom performed two songs.

22 The most songs in a contest final has been twenty-seven in Vienna 2015 when Australia’s late guest entry added them to hosts Austria, the “Big Five” and the twenty qualifiers from the semis. The first twenty-sixer happened in 2003. When Italy returned to the contest in 2011 and the “Big Four” became the “Big Five”, a twenty-six country final (the “Big Five”, the hosts and the ten qualifiers from each semi) was likely to be the norm, however in 2011 one of the “Big Five” (Germany) were also hosts, so we only got twenty-six again a year later. Since 2004 we have had semi-finals in the week of the contest, enabling more countries to send songs to the contest week, and 2008 and 2011 saw a record forty-three countries participating, a figure that would have been matched in 2017 if Russia had not withdrawn.

23 The nine countries who have competed previously but not in 2017 (and of course the reason may be that the country doesn’t actually exist any more!) are Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Monaco, Morocco, Serbia/Montenegro, Slovakia, Turkey,  and ex-Yugoslavia.

24 Before 1993 Yugoslavia was the only eastern bloc country to compete in the contest. The 2008 event contained no less than 22 former eastern bloc countries including six from the old Yugoslavia and ten from the old Soviet Union.

LANGUAGES

25 Belgium alternate each year between their Flemish and Walloon TV stations, although both have sent entries in English and imaginary languages.

26 Switzerland have submitted entries in all four native tongues (French, German, Italian and Romansch) as well as English.

27 France has sent entries in Creole, Breton and (for a second time in 2011, Corsican), while one Irish entry was in Gaelic.

28 The 1980 Norwegian entry was performed in a Sami language.

THROUGH THE YEARS

29 None of the 1956 voting is known, other than the winner being Switzerland. In 1964 the Danish hosts managed to lose their video of the contest meaning that no recording of the event exists. All other contests and voting records are intact.

30 In 1966 the first black contestant was the Netherland’s Millie Scott and the only black winner has been Dave Benton (one half of Estonia’s Tanel & Dave in 2001).

31 The 1968 contest at the Royal Albert Hall was the first to be broadcast in colour.

32 In 1974 the United Kingdom gave Nul Points to Abba.

33 In 1977 the contest almost didn’t happen due to a BBC strike. The original contest had to be postponed and luckily all parties re-convened at Wembley a few weeks later.

34 In every contest from 1981 to 1986 the UK was drawn to sing immediately after Norway.

35 In 2003 Esther Hart was in both the Dutch and UK finals. She won the Dutch final and gave up her song in “A Song For Europe” to another singer. The song was retitled and promptly finished last…… behind Jemini.

UNITED KINGDOM

36 The contest has been held in the UK no less than eight times, despite them only winning five times. The venues were London (1960,1963,1968,1977), Edinburgh (1972), Brighton (1974), Harrogate (1982) and Birmingham (1998).

37 In 20 contests up to and including 1977, the UK only finished outside the top 4 twice.

38 In 19 contests from 1999 to 2017, the UK only finished inside the top 10 twice,  Jessica Garlick and Jade Ewen in 2002 and 2009 respectively.

39 In those recent contests the UK only received the maximum 12 points on six occasions: 2002 (from Austria), 2007 (from Malta), 2009 (from Greece) 2011 (from Bulgaria) 2016 (from the Maltese jury vote) and 2017 (from the Australian jury vote).

40 Sir Cliff Richard isn’t the only artist to have sung twice for the UK. Ronnie Carroll actually represented us twice consecutively in 1963 and 1964. Cheryl Baker was a member of Bucks Fizz in 1981 and also Co-Co three years earlier. Sally-Ann Triplett was in Prima Donna (1980) and Bardo (1982).

41 The late great Sir Terry Wogan was synonymous with Eurovision commentary in the UK, but his predecessors included Dave Lee Travis, David Vine, David Jacobs, Pete Murray and Rolf Harris.

THE VOTING

42 Since telephone voting was introduced in the late 1990s the habit of ex-patriots voting for their homeland has been a constant bugbear for the contest.  In just one example in 2016 the Polish entry was third in the televoting, largely from countries with significant Polish immigrants.

43 Viewers in Northern Ireland have had the opportunity to vote in national finals of both the United Kingdom and Ireland. On contest night they are part of the UK televote.

44 For many years each countries votes came in on a crackly radio connection and part of the fun was whether contact would be lost with say, Helsinki or Nicosia. Nowadays there is an instant video linkup with the spokesperson, who usually tries in vain to build up their part with a variation on “thank you so much for a wonderful evening”, which is now thankfully slapped down by the comperes.

45 With the advent of the “semi-finals” in 2004 and forty-plus countries voting the European Broadcasting Union attempted to reduce the gargantuan voting time by getting each spokesperson to just announce the top three votes, which commenced in 2006.

46 In 2016 after several years when the contest winner was known well before the end of the voting the EBU decided to debut a system where each country awarded two sets of votes rather than them being merged before announcement.  Thus each country’s jury votes were announced in the traditional fashion before the aggregated televotes were revealed at the end.  To effect this change the national spokespersons only announced their twelve-pointer.

47 The order of voting has generally followed the order of performance (except for a few years in the 1960s when it was jauntily reversed and the 1974 random order), however come the brave new world in the mid-noughties it was pre-drawn. From 2011 the order was arranged on the basis of jury results (known by the producers) in order to try to prevent a runaway leader early in the voting.  From 2016 all the required excitement was in the televote announcement so no tinkering was needed.

48 The scoreboard (another source of much hilarity in the earlier years of the contest) has gone from a physical human-operated board to a CGI wonder that is displayed on massive screens in the arena.

THE INTERVAL

49 Eurovision has always needed an interval act while the votes have been counted. This has ranged from the sublime (1994) to the ridiculous (1989), and everything from old fashioned cabaret (1963) to impenetrable tableaux (1998).

THE CONCLUSION

50 At the conclusion of the voting the winning song is reprised, that much has not changed, but the awarding of the prize (the Grand Prix) has changed completely. In the old days the Grand Prix went to the composer and songwriter, and the entrance of the winning artist was almost an afterthought. Today, the composers are an afterthought as the winning singer gets the spotlight.  Touchingly in 2017 the Portuguese winner was reprised by the performer AND the composer (who happened to be his sister).