Eurovision Song Contest

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Eurovision Song Contest
Eurovision Song Contest.svg
The current ESC logo, in use since 2015
Also known as
  • Eurovision
  • ESC
GenreMusic competition
Created byEuropean Broadcasting Union
Based onSanremo Music Festival
Presented byVarious presenters
Theme music composerMarc-Antoine Charpentier
Opening themePrelude to Te Deum, H. 146
Country of originVarious participating countries
Original language(s)English and French
No. of episodes
  • 64 contests
  • 92 live shows
Production location(s)Various host cities
(in 2021, Rotterdam, Netherlands)
Running time
  • ~2 hours (semi-finals)
  • ~4 hours (finals)
Production company(s)European Broadcasting Union
Various national broadcasters (in 2021, NPO/NOS/AVROTROS)
Picture format
Original release24 May 1956; 64 years ago (1956-05-24)
Related shows
External links
Production website

The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la chanson) is an international song competition, organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and featuring participants representing primarily European countries. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio, transmitted to national broadcasters via the EBU's Eurovision and Euroradio networks, with competing countries then casting votes for the other countries' songs to determine a winner.

Based on the Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy since 1951, Eurovision has been held every year since 1956, with the exception of the cancelled 2020 edition, making it the longest-running annual international televised music competition. Active members of the EBU, as well as invited associate members, are eligible to compete in the contest, and as of 2019, 52 countries have participated at least once. Originally consisting of a single evening event, the contest has expanded greatly as new countries joined, leading to the introduction of relegation procedures in the 1990s and eventually the creation of semi-finals in the 2000s. As of 2020, Germany has competed more times than any other country, having participated in all but one edition, while Ireland holds the record for the most victories, with seven wins in total.

The contest has received criticism for its artistic quality, spanning ethnic and international styles, and claims regarding a geopolitical element in the voting system and the competing entries, with varying relations between both participating countries and other territories' broadcasters. Several controversial moments, such as participating countries withdrawing at a late stage, censorship of segments of the contest by broadcasters, and political events impacting contest participation, have also been experienced in past editions. Eurovision has gained great popularity for its kitsch appeal and has entered LGBT culture, resulting in a large active fan base and influence on popular culture, including television and film, both in Europe and worldwide.

Performing at the Eurovision Song Contest often provides artists with a local career boost and in some cases long-lasting international success. Several of the best-selling music artists in the world have competed in past editions, including ABBA, Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias and Olivia Newton-John, and some of the world's best-selling singles have received their first international performance on the Eurovision stage. One of the world's longest-running television programmes, the contest has been broadcast in countries across all continents, and has been available online via the official Eurovision website since 2000. Eurovision features among the world's most watched non-sporting events every year, with hundreds of millions of viewers globally, and has spawned and inspired similar contests internationally.

Origins and history

The origins of the Eurovision Song Contest stem initially from a desire to promote cooperation through cross-border television broadcasts between European countries in the years following World War II, which gave rise to the founding of the European Broadcasting Union in 1950 for this purpose.[1] The word "Eurovision" was first used in relation to the EBU's network by British journalist George Campey in the London Evening Standard in 1951, when he referred to a BBC programme being relayed by Dutch television.[2][3] A number of events were broadcast internationally via the Eurovision transmission network in the early 1950s, including the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, and a series of international exchange programmes in 1954.[2][3][4] Following this summer season of programmes, an EBU committee, headed by Marcel Bezençon, was formed in January 1955 to investigate new initiatives for cooperation between broadcasters; this committee approved for further study a European song competition, from an idea initially proposed by Sergio Pugliese.[3][5] The EBU's General Assembly agreed to the organising of the song contest in October 1955, under the initial title of the European Grand Prix, and accepted a proposal made by the Swiss delegation to host the event in Lugano in the spring of 1956.[2][3][6] The Italian Sanremo Music Festival was used as a basis for the initial planning of the contest, with several amendments and additions introduced given its international nature.[2]

Lys Assia, the winner of the first Eurovision Song Contest for Switzerland, pictured performing at the 1958 contest

Seven countries participated in the first contest, with each country represented by two songs of between 3 and 3½ minutes in length, the only time in which multiple entries per country has been allowed.[1][2][7][6] The first winning song was "Refrain", representing the home nation Switzerland and performed by Lys Assia.[8] Voting during the first contest was held behind closed doors, with only the winner of the contest being announced on stage. Taking inspiration from the BBC's Festival of British Popular Songs held in August 1956, which featured a scoreboard and voting by regional juries, the EBU decided to incorporate this idea into its own contest, so that the audience and television viewers could follow the voting at home.[9] Initially the host country of the contest was decided ahead of time by the contest organisers, but with the increase in numbers of countries taking part, from 1958 the contest was now to be staged in the country that had won the previous year, setting a precedent which, barring a number of exceptions, continues to the present day.[10][11] New and improved technologies in broadcasting would soon be introduced to the contest, with the 30th contest the first to be broadcast via satellite in 1985, and the 45th edition the first to be broadcast live via the internet in 2000.[4][12]

Eurovision began to expand rapidly as new countries looked to enter, with between 16 and 18 countries regularly competing each year by the 1960s.[13] The contest soon saw countries from outside the traditional boundaries of Europe entering the contest, with countries from Western Asia and North Africa first entering in the 1970s and 1980. Changes in Europe following the end of the Cold War saw an influx of new countries from Central and Eastern Europe looking to join the contest for the first time. The 1993 contest featured a separate pre-qualifying round, with seven of these new countries competing for three places in the event. From 1994, a relegation system was introduced to manage the number of competing countries, with the poorest performing countries being barred from entering the following year's contest and replaced by those that had missed out in previous editions.[14][13] From 2004, the contest expanded to become a multi-programme event, when the 48th contest featured the introduction of a semi-final, which allowed all interested countries to compete in the contest each year; a second semi-final was eventually added in 2008.[7][13]

64 contests have been held since its first broadcast, making Eurovision the longest-running annual international televised music competition as determined by Guinness World Records.[15][16] A total of 52 countries have taken part in the contest's history, with a record 43 countries taking part in a single contest in 2008, and subsequently matched in 2011 and 2018.[7][13] In 2015 Australia become the first non-EBU member country to enter when they were invited by the EBU to compete in the contest's 60th edition.[17][18] Initially announced as a "one-off" to celebrate the contest's anniversary and to honour Australia's history of broadcasting the contest—the Australian broadcaster the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) having broadcast the contest since 1983[19]—the country was invited back the following year, and in 2019 secured participation rights until 2023.[20][21]

Eurovision had been held every year until 2020, when that year's contest, planned to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[7][22] No competitive event was able to take place due to the uncertainty caused by the spread of the virus in Europe and the various restrictions imposed by the governments of the participating countries. In its place, a special broadcast Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light, was produced by the Dutch organisers, which honoured the songs and artists that would have competed in the 2020 contest in a non-competitive format.[22][23][24]


Over the years the name used to describe the contest, and used on the official logo for each edition, has evolved. The first contests were produced under the name of Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne in French and as the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix in English, with similar variations used in the languages of each of the broadcasting countries. From 1968, the English name dropped the 'Grand Prix' from the name, with the French name soon being aligned as the Concours Eurovision de la Chanson, first used in 1973.[13][25][26] The contest's official brand guidance specifies that translations of the name may be used depending on national tradition and brand recognition in the competing countries, but that the official name Eurovision Song Contest is always preferred; the contest is also commonly referred to in English by the abbreviations 'ESC' and 'Eurovision'.[27]

On only four occasions has the name used for the official logo of the contest not been in English or French: when Italy hosted the contest in 1965 and 1991 the contest used the Italian names Gran Premio Eurovisione della Canzone and Concorso Eurovisione della Canzone respectively; at the 1976 and 1980 contests held in the Netherlands, the contest used the Dutch name Eurovisiesongfestival.[13]


The format of the contest has changed over the years, but many aspects have remained consistent since its inception. Participating countries submit original songs to be performed in a live television programme broadcast via the Eurovision and Euroradio networks simultaneously to all countries. A "country" as a participant is represented by one television broadcaster from that country, a member of the European Broadcasting Union, and is typically, but not always, that country's national public broadcasting organisation.[28] The programme is hosted by one of the participant countries and is broadcast from an auditorium in the selected host city. During the programme, after all the songs have been performed, each participating country proceeds to cast votes for the other countries' songs—nations are not permitted to vote for their own song. At the end of the programme, the song which has received the most points is declared as the winner. The winner receives, simply, the prestige of having won—although it is usual for a trophy to be awarded to the winning performers and songwriters, and the winning country is formally invited to host the event the following year.[28][29]

The contest is a non-profit event, and financing is typically achieved through a participation fee from each participating broadcaster, contributions from the host broadcaster and the host city, and commercial revenues from sponsorships, ticket sales, televoting and merchandise.[30]

Each contest is typically formed of three live television shows held over one week: two semi-finals are held on the Tuesday and Thursday of "Eurovision week", followed by a grand final on the Saturday.[31] All competing countries compete in one of the two semi-finals, except for the host country of that year's contest and the "Big Five" countries—France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom—who, as the contest's biggest financial contributors, automatically qualify to the final.[28][32] The remaining countries are split between the two semi-finals, and the 10 highest-scoring entries in each semi-final qualify for the grand final; this means that 26 countries in total compete in the grand final each year.[28]

The contest is invariably compered by one or more presenters, who welcome viewers to the show and guide the voting process.[33] Other performances are usually featured alongside the competing songs, with one or more interval acts typically performing following the last competing song and before the presentation of the votes.[34]

Each participating broadcaster has sole discretion on the process they may employ to select their entry for the contest, although the EBU strongly encourages that broadcasters engage the public with the selection of their act. Typical methods in which participants are selected for the contest include a televised national selection process utilising a public vote; an internal selection by a committee appointed by the broadcaster; and through a mixed format where some decisions are made internally, typically the performing artist, with the public engaged in selecting the competing song.[35] Among the most successful televised selection shows is Sweden's Melodifestivalen, first established in 1959 and now one of Sweden's most watched TV shows each year.[36][37]

As national broadcasters join and leave the Eurovision feed transmitted by the EBU, the EBU/Eurovision network logo ident (not to be confused with the logo of the song contest itself) is displayed. The accompanying music (used on other Eurovision broadcasts) is the Prelude (Marche en rondeau) to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum.[3] Originally, the same logo was used for both the Eurovision network and the European Broadcasting Union, however, they now have two different logos; when the ident is transmitted, it is the Eurovision network logo that appears.


The European Broadcasting Area, shown in red

Active Members (as opposed to Associate Members) of the European Broadcasting Union are eligible to participate; Active Members are those who are located in states that fall within the European Broadcasting Area, or are member states of the Council of Europe.[38] Active Members include media organisations whose broadcasts are often made available to at least 98% of households in their own country which are equipped to receive such transmissions.[39] Associate Member broadcasters may also be eligible to compete in the contest, dependent on approval by the contest's Reference Group.[40]

The European Broadcasting Area is defined by the International Telecommunication Union:[41][42]

The "European Broadcasting Area" is bounded on the west by the western boundary of Region 1, on the east by the meridian 40° East of Greenwich and on the south by the parallel 30° North so as to include the northern part of Saudi Arabia and that part of those countries bordering the Mediterranean within these limits. In addition, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine and those parts of the territories of Iraq, Jordan and Syrian Arab Republic lying outside the above limits are included in the European Broadcasting Area.

Eligibility to participate in the contest is therefore not limited to countries in Europe, as several countries geographically outside the boundaries of the continent and those which span more than one continent are included in the Broadcasting Area.[40] Many of these countries have taken part, including countries in Western Asia such as Israel and Cyprus, countries which span Europe and Asia like Russia and Turkey, and North African countries such as Morocco.[13] Australia became the first country to participate from outside the European Broadcasting Area in 2015, following an invitation by the Reference Group.[17]

EBU Members who wish to participate must fulfil conditions as laid down by the rules of the contest, a separate copy of which is drafted annually. A maximum of 44 countries can take part in any one contest.[43] Broadcasters must have paid the EBU a participation fee in advance to the deadline specified in the rules for the year in which they wish to participate; this fee is different for each country based on its size and viewership.[30]

Participation since 1956:
  Entered at least once
  Never entered, although eligible to do so
  Entry intended, but later withdrew
  Competed as a part of another country, but never as a sovereign country

Fifty-two countries have participated at least once.[13] These are listed here alongside the year in which they made their début:

Year Country making its debut entry
1956  Belgium
1957  Austria
 United Kingdom
1958  Sweden
1959  Monaco
1960  Norway
1961  Finland
1964  Portugal
1965  Ireland
Year Country making its debut entry
1971  Malta
1973  Israel
1974  Greece
1975  Turkey
1980  Morocco
1981  Cyprus
1986  Iceland
1993  Bosnia and Herzegovina
1994  Estonia
1998  North Macedonia[c]
Year Country making its debut entry
2000  Latvia
2003  Ukraine
2004  Albania
 Serbia and Montenegro
2005  Bulgaria
2006  Armenia
2007  Czech Republic
2008  Azerbaijan
 San Marino
2015  Australia[d]
  1. ^ Represented West Germany until 1990; East Germany never competed. Presented on all occasions as 'Germany', except in 1967 as 'Federal Republic of Germany' and 1976 as 'West Germany'.
  2. ^ Represented the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until 1991, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992.
  3. ^ Presented as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' before 2019.
  4. ^ Initially a one-off participant to commemorate the contest's 60th anniversary; has since gained participation rights until 2023.


The stage of the 2014 contest, held in Copenhagen, Denmark
The opening act during the grand final of the 2011 contest in Düsseldorf, Germany

Preparations for each year's contest typically begin following the conclusion of the previous year's contest. At the winner's press conference following the grand final, the contest's Executive Supervisor will traditionally provide the winning country's Head of Delegation with a welcome package containing information related to hosting the contest.[28][44][45]

Once the participating broadcaster of the winning country confirms to the EBU that they intend to host the event, a host city is chosen by the broadcaster, which should meet certain criteria set out in the contest's rules. The host venue must be able to accommodate at least 10,000 spectators, space for a press centre for 1,500 journalists, and the host city should be within easy reach of an international airport. In addition, the location must also have hotel accommodation available for at least 2,000 delegates, journalists and spectators.[46] For these reasons, the contest is typically, but not always, held in a national or regional capital city. In recent years, bid processes have become a common occurrence, with a number of cities in the host country applying to host the contest.[46] Ahead of the 2017 contest, held in Ukraine, a debate featuring representatives from six potential host cities was broadcast live via radio and television, with contributions from media, music and the Eurovision fandom on which city would be the most suitable host.[47]

The contest has been hosted in a variety of different venues, from small theatres and television studios in the early days of the contest, to large stadiums in the present day.[13] The largest venue to host the contest was Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, which held the 2001 contest and was attended by almost 38,000 spectators.[7][48] The smallest contest host in its history is Millstreet, a small town in County Cork, Ireland with a population of only 1,500 at the time of the contest; the Green Glens Arena, the venue for the 1993 contest, is however capable of hosting up to 8,000 spectators.[49][50]

The hotel and press facilities in the vicinity of the venue, and in particular the accommodation costs for the visiting delegations, journalists and fans, are typically an important consideration when choosing a host city.[51] The contest organisers and city officials have in the past had to negotiate rates with hotel owners ahead of the contest; in 2005, contest organisers ahead of the contest in Kiev had asked the Ukrainian government to put a block on bookings to be used for contest delegations due to the limited hotel space available at the time, which adversely affected tour operators and tourists.[52]

The contest is considered to be a unique opportunity for promoting the host country as a tourist destination; ahead of the 2005 contest in Kiev, Ukraine, visa restrictions were lifted for European Union member countries and Switzerland through the summer of 2005 in a bid to encourage travel to Ukraine.[53]

Host country

Following the first two contests hosted in Switzerland and Germany, the tradition of the winning country hosting the following year's event was established in 1958, held in the Netherlands.[10][11][54] A number of exceptions to this rule have occurred since, typically when the winning country had already hosted the event in the recent past. These exceptions are listed below:[13]

With Australia's invitation to participate in the contest in 2015, it was announced that should they win the contest, Australian broadcaster SBS would co-host the following year's contest in a European city in collaboration with an EBU Member Broadcaster of their choice.[17][62]

Eurovision logo and theme

Logo used in 2004–14

A generic logo for the contest was first introduced in 2004, to create a consistent visual identity. This is typically accompanied by unique theme artwork and a slogan designed for each individual contest by the host broadcaster, with the flag of the host country featuring in the centre of the Eurovision heart.[27] The original logo, introduced in 2004, was designed by the London-based JM International, and received a revamp in 2014 by Cornelis Jacobs of the Amsterdam-based Cityzen Agency ahead of the contest's 60th edition.[63]

An individual slogan has been associated with each edition of the contest since 2002, except in 2009.[64] This slogan is decided by the host broadcaster and is then used to develop the contest's visual identity and design.[27] This slogan is typically used by the producers in planning and formulating the show's visual identity, and is channelled into the contest's stage design, the opening and interval acts, and the "postcards", short videos interspersed between the entries which usually highlight the host country, and in many cases introduce the competing acts.[65][66][67] Postcards were first introduced to the contest in 1970, initially as an attempt to "bulk up" the contest after a number of countries decided not to compete, but has since become a regular part of the show.[58][68]

Each slogan used in the contest since 2002 is listed below:

Year Host country Host city Slogan
2002  Estonia Tallinn A Modern Fairytale
2003  Latvia Riga A Magical Rendez-vous
2004  Turkey Istanbul Under the Same Sky
2005  Ukraine Kiev Awakening
2006  Greece Athens Feel the Rhythm
2007  Finland Helsinki True Fantasy
2008  Serbia Belgrade Confluence of Sound
2010  Norway Oslo Share the Moment
2011  Germany Düsseldorf Feel Your Heart Beat!
2012  Azerbaijan Baku Light Your Fire!
2013  Sweden Malmö We Are One
2014  Denmark Copenhagen #JoinUs
2015  Austria Vienna Building Bridges
2016  Sweden Stockholm Come Together
2017  Ukraine Kiev Celebrate Diversity
2018  Portugal Lisbon All Aboard!
2019  Israel Tel Aviv Dare to Dream
2020  Netherlands Rotterdam Open Up

Event weeks

The "event weeks" refer to the weeks during which the contest takes place; the week in which the live shows are held and broadcast is typically referred to as "Eurovision week" by fans and the media.[69][70] Physical preparations for the contest typically begin weeks before any of the artists or delegations arrive in the host city, with the host venue being prepared and the stage being built ahead of rehearsals. For this reason the contest organisers will typically request that the venue be available for approximately six weeks before the contest's grand final.[71]

Delegations will typically arrive in the host city two to three weeks before the live shows, with the "event weeks" in the host city typically lasting for 15 days. Each participating broadcaster nominates a Head of Delegation, responsible for coordinating the movements of the delegate members, ensuring that the rules of the contest are respected by their delegation, and being that country's representative to the EBU.[43][72] Members of each country's delegation include performers, composers, lyricists, members of the press, and—in the years where songs were a live orchestra was present—a conductor. Also present if desired is a commentator, who provides commentary of the contest for their country's radio and/or television feed in their country's own language; the commentators are given dedicated commentary booths situated around the back of the arena behind the audience.[73][74]

Rehearsals and press conferences

Lena, representing Germany, performing "Satellite" during a rehearsal in 2010

Rehearsals at the contest venue typically commence on the Sunday two weeks before the grand final, and all participating countries will rehearse individually on stage twice. Each country's first rehearsal lasts for 30 minutes and is held behind closed doors, with accredited press having no access to the venue but able to follow the rehearsals via a video-link to the nearby press centre. These are then followed by a "meet and greet", with the participants meeting with press and fans in the press centre. The second rehearsal for each country lasts for 20 minutes, with press being able to watch from the arena. This is then followed by a press conference with assembled press.[69]

After each country has rehearsed, the delegation meets with the show's production team in the viewing room, where they watch the footage of the rehearsal just performed and where the producers or delegations make known any special requirements or changes which are needed.[75] Rehearsals and press conferences are held in parallel, so as one country is rehearsing on stage another country is holding its press conference. A summary of the questions and answers which emerge from the press conferences is produced by the host press office and distributed to the accredited press.[30][76]

The Serbian delegation hosting a press conference at Eurovision 2012

The typical schedule for these individual rehearsals sees the semi-finalists conducting their first rehearsal from the first Sunday through to the following Wednesday, with countries typically rehearsing in the order in which they will perform during the live semi-finals. The semi-finalists' second rehearsals then usually take place from the Thursday to the Saturday in the week before the live shows. The delegations from the host country and the "Big Five" automatic finalists will arrive later, and typically hold their first rehearsal on the Friday or Saturday before "Eurovision week", and the second rehearsal on the Sunday.[75][77]

Each live show is preceded by three dress rehearsals, where the whole show is performed in the same way as it will be presented on TV. The first dress rehearsal, held during the afternoon of the day before the live show, is open to the press. The second and third dress rehearsals, held the night before the contest and during the afternoon on the day, are open to the public, with tickets being sold in the same way as for the live shows. In addition, the second dress rehearsal is also used for a recorded back-up in case of technological failure, and is also the show on which the juries will base their votes.[69][77] Following the two semi-final shows, the delegations from the qualifying countries will attend a qualifiers' press conference, and following the grand final, the winning delegation attends a winners' press conference.[69] Further press conferences are typically held during the "event weeks", which typically include a press conference with the host broadcaster, a conference on the upcoming Junior Eurovision Song Contest, as well as a press conference featuring the automatic finalists.[69]

Receptions and parties

The EuroClub at the 2012 contest in Baku, Azerbaijan

A number of receptions and parties are typically held during the "event weeks", held by the contest organisers as well as by the various delegations. Traditionally, a Welcome Reception is held on the Sunday preceding the live shows, which features a red carpet ceremony for all the participating countries. This is typically held at an opulent venue in the host city, with grand theatres and city halls having featured at recent contests, and is usually accompanied by live music, complimentary food and drink and a fireworks display.[78][79]

Accredited delegates, press and fans have access to an official nightclub, the "EuroClub", during the "events week", which is not open to the public.[80] The various delegations will typically throw their own parties over the course of Eurovision week, either at the EuroClub or at other venues in the host city; events held by the Nordic countries and the automatic finalists are some of most common.[69][77][81][82] The "Eurovision Village" is the official fan zone during the contest, open to the public free of charge, where live performances by the contest's artists are held and where fans are able to watch the live shows on big screens.[83]

In addition to the main Eurovision title, other prizes have traditionally been bestowed, both by the Eurovision organisers and by fan organisations. The Marcel Bezençon Awards, created by two former Swedish Eurovision artists, Christer Björkman and Richard Herrey, and first awarded in 2002, have been a set of additional prizes celebrating the best songs and artists in each contest's final as voted for by the accredited press, national commentators, and the assembled composers. The winners of these three awards will typically receive a trophy, which is traditionally handed out backstage shortly before the grand final.[84] Other fan-led awards, typically held in the weeks running up to the event or shortly afterwards, include the annual OGAE poll to determine the favourite act of members of the OGAE fan organisation, and the Barbara Dex Award to determine the "worst-dressed" artist each year, named after the Belgian singer Barbara Dex who represented Belgium in the 1993 contest in a self-made dress.[85][86]


A detailed set of rules is produced for each contest, written by the European Broadcasting Union and approved by the contest's Reference Group. These rules have changed over time, and typically outline the eligibility of the competing songs, the contest's format, the voting system to be used to determine the winner and how the results will be presented, the values of the contest to which all participating broadcasters must agree, and distribution and broadcasting rights for both broadcasters participating in the contest and those which do not or cannot enter.[43]

Organisation of the contest

The contest is organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), together with the participating broadcaster of the host country. The contest is overseen by the Reference Group on behalf of all participating broadcasters, who are each represented by a nominated Head of Delegation.[87]

The Head of Delegation for each country is responsible for leading their country's delegation at the event, and is their country's contact person with the EBU. A country's delegation will typically include a Head of Press, the contest participants, the songwriters and composers, backing performers, and the artist's entourage, and can range from 20 to 50 people depending on the country.[88] The Heads of Delegation will typically meet in March before the contest is held, in order to receive detailed information about the shows, the venue, stage design, lighting and sound in order to best prepare their entry for the contest, as well as details on the event organisation, such as transportation and accommodation during the event.[89] This meeting also typically marks the deadline for competing songs to be submitted to the contest's organisers.[88]

Scrutineers and Executive Supervisors

Jon Ola Sand, the contest's Executive Supervisor from 2011 to 2020.

Since the first editions of the contest, the contest's voting procedure has been presided over by a scrutineer nominated by the EBU, who is responsible for ensuring that all points are allocated correctly and in turn. This has evolved into the present-day role of the Executive Supervisor, who along with overseeing the voting is also responsible for ensuring the organisation of the contest on behalf of the EBU, enforcing the rules and overseeing the TV production during the live shows.[90] Since 2011, the Executive Supervisor has been assisted by an Event Supervisor, who oversees and coordinates other matters related to the event on behalf of the EBU.[90] The below table outlines the holders of the posts of Executive Supervisor and Event Supervisor in the contest's history:

Name Year(s) Contests
Executive Supervisors
Rolf Liebermann 1956–1957 2
Unknown 1958–1963 6
Miroslav Vilček 1964–1965 2
Clifford Brown 1966–1977 12
Frank Naef 1978–1992 15
Christian Clausen 1993–1995 3
Christine Marchal-Ortiz 1996, 1998–2002 6
Marie-Claire Vionnet 1997 1
Sarah Yuen 2003 1
Svante Stockselius 2004–2010 7
Jon Ola Sand 2011–2020 9 (1 cancelled)
Martin Österdahl[91] 2021– TBD
Event Supervisors
Sietse Bakker 2011–2016 6
Nadja Burkhardt 2017– 3

Reference Group

The Reference Group is the contest's executive committee and works on behalf of all participating countries in the contest. The group meets four to five times a year on behalf of all participating broadcasters, and its role is to approve the development and format of the contest, secure financing, control the contest's branding, raise public awareness, and to oversee the yearly preparations of the contest with the host broadcaster.[92]

The Reference Group is composed of the following members:

Song and artist eligibility

The rules of the contest set out which songs may be eligible to compete. As the contest is for new compositions, and in order to prevent any one competing entry from having an advantage compared to the other entries, the contest organisers typically set a restriction on when a song may be released to be considered eligible.[43] Rules in recent years have typically seen this date set as the first day of September of the year before the contest is to be held, however this date has changed and in the contest's history this has been as late as a few weeks before the contest is held.[93] Previously songs were not allowed to be released commercially in any other country than that which it represented until after the grand final, however this criteria is no longer in place, and with the advancement in technology and the growth of internet streaming, songs are regularly published online and released globally, and are promoted via the Eurovision official website and social media platforms.[94]

The contest has never had a rule in place dictating the nationality or country of birth of the competing artists; many smaller competing countries, such as Luxembourg and Monaco, were regularly represented by artists and composers from other countries, and several winning artists in the contest's history have held a different nationality or were born in a different country to that which they represented in the contest.[93][8]

Each competing performance may only feature a maximum of six people on stage, and may not contain live animals.[43] Since 1990, all performers must be over the age of 16 on the day of the live show in which they perform. This rule was introduced after two artists in the 1989 contest, Nathalie Pâque representing France and Gili Netanel representing Israel, were 11 and 12 years old respectively on the day of the contest, which elicited complaints from some of the other participating countries.[95][96] This rule's introduction means that Sandra Kim, who won the contest for Belgium in 1986 at the age of 13, would remain the contest's youngest winner in perpetuity.[97][98] No performer may compete for more than one country at the contest in a given year.[43]

Live music

Live music has been an integral part of the contest since its first edition. The main vocals of the competing songs must be sung live on stage, however other rules on pre-recorded musical accompaniment have changed over time.[99]

The orchestra was a prominent feature of the contest from 1956 to 1998. Pre-recorded backing tracks were first allowed in the contest in 1973, but under this rule the only instruments which could be pre-recorded had to also be seen being "performed" on stage; in 1997, this rule was changed to allow all instrumental music to be pre-recorded, however the host country was still required to provide an orchestra.[100] In 1999, the rules were changed again, making the orchestra an optional requirement; the host broadcaster of the 1999 contest, Israel's IBA, subsequently decided not to provide an orchestra as a cost saving measure, meaning that all entries would use a backing track for the first time in the contest's history.[94][101][102] The present-day rules of the contest now specify that all instrumental music should be pre-recorded, with no live instrumentation allowed, making the return of the orchestra for competing acts impossible under the current rules.[43][103]

Before 2020, all vocals were required to be performed live, with no natural voices of any kind or vocal imitations allowed on backing tracks.[43] The Croatian entry at the 1999 contest, "Marija Magdalena" performed by Doris Dragović, was sanctioned after the contest for including synthesised male vocals in defiance of this rule.[94] The contest organisers' subsequently penalised Croatia by docking their score at that year's contest by 33% for the purposes of calculating their five-year points average for use in determining which countries would be relegated in future contests.[101][102] Ahead of the 2021 contest, in an effort to make the contest more flexible to change following the cancellation of the 2020 event and to facilitate modernisation, the organisers' announced that recorded backing vocals will now be allowed on a trial basis; this will be an optional addition, and delegations are still free to provide live backing vocals if they prefer, however all lead vocals performing the melody of the song, including by the lead vocalist(s) and any supporting vocalists, must still be performed live.[99]


As Eurovision is a song contest, all competing entries must include vocals and lyrics of some kind; purely instrumental pieces have never been allowed.[43] Presently competing entries may be performed in any language, be that natural or constructed, however the rules on the language(s) in which a country's entry may perform have varied over the course of the contest's history.

From 1956 to 1965, there were no rules in place to dictate which language a country may perform in, however all entries up to 1964 were performed in one of their countries' national languages. In 1965, Sweden's Ingvar Wixell broke with this tradition to perform his song in English, "Absent Friend", which had originally been performed at the Swedish national final in Swedish.[104] Following this, a new language rule was introduced for the 1966 contest for all competing countries, preventing entries from being performed in any language other than in one of the country's officially recognised national languages.[105][93][106]

The language rule was first abolished in 1973, allowing all participating countries to sing in the language of their choice;[107][108] the rule was reintroduced ahead of the 1977 contest, however as the process for choosing the entries for Belgium and Germany had already begun before the rule change, they were permitted to perform in English.[109][110] The language rule was abolished once again in 1999, resulting in 14 of that year's 23 competing entries featuring English lyrics.[101][102]

Since the abolition of the language rule, the large majority of entries at each year's contest are now performed in English, given its status as a lingua franca; at the 2017 contest, only four songs were performed in a language other than English. However at the 2018 contest, following Salvador Sobral's victory with a song in Portuguese, that year's contest marked an increased number of entries in another language than English, which was repeated again in 2019.[111][112]

The abolition of the language rule has, however, provided opportunities for artists to perform songs which would not have been possible previously. A number of competing entries have been performed in an invented language: in 2003, Urban Trad came second for Belgium with the song "Sanomi"; in 2006, Treble represented the Netherlands with "Amambanda", performed in both English and an artificial language; and in 2008, Ishtar represented Belgium with "O Julissi".[113] Artists have also used this linguistic freedom to perform in languages other than English which are also not official languages of their country: Austria's Zoë performed "Loin d'ici" at the 2016 contest in French, while Elina Nechayeva performed "La forza", a song in Italian, for Estonia in 2018.[114][115]

As the contest is presented in both English and French, at least one of the contest's hosts must be able to speak French as well as English.[43]

Running order

The order in which the competing countries perform had historically been decided through a random draw, however since 2013 the order has been decided by the contest's producers, and submitted to the EBU Executive Supervisor and Reference Group for approval before being announced publicly. This change was introduced in order to provide a better experience for television viewers, making the show more exciting and allowing all countries to stand out by avoiding cases where songs of similar style or tempo were performed in sequence.[116] Under the current method, during the Semi-Final Allocation Draw each country competing in a semi-final is drawn into either the first half or second half of that semi-final; once all songs have been selected the producers will then determine the running order for the semi-finals.[117][118] Semi-final qualifiers make a draw at random during the winners' press conference to determine whether they will perform during the first or second half of the final; the automatic finalists will also randomly draw their competing half in the run-up to the grand final, except for the host country which draws its exact performance number.[118][119] The running order for the final is then decided following the second semi-final by the producers, taking into consideration both the competing songs' musical qualities as well as stage performance, in order to best work around how to set up any props, lighting and other production considerations.[120]

The process change in 2013 led to a mixed reaction from fans of the contests, with some expressing concern over potential corruption in allowing the producers to decide at which point each country would perform, while others were more optimistic about the change.[121] The order in which competing countries perform is considered an important factor in the potential of winning the contest, and statistical analysis on this subject has been shown to corroborate that in a random draw songs which perform later in the contest have a better chance of being scored highly.[122][123] Performing second in the final is particularly considered as detrimental to a country's chances of winning the contest, as no song performing in this position has ever won the contest in its history.[124]


Various voting system have been used in the contest's history to determine the placing of the competing songs. The current system has been in place since 2016, which works on the basis of positional voting.[125][126] Each country awards two sets of points: one set is based on the votes of each country's professional jury, consisting of five music professionals from that country; and the other set is based on the votes received by the viewing public through telephone, SMS or via the official Eurovision app. Each set of points consists of 1–8, 10 and 12 points to the jury and public's 10 favourite songs, with the most preferred song receiving 12 points.[127] National juries and the public in each country are not allowed to vote for their own country, a rule first introduced in 1957.[127][128]

Historically, each country's points were determined by a jury, which has at times consisted of members of the public, music professionals, or both in combination.[93][106] With advances in telecommunication technology, and in response to criticism regarding some jury picks for the contest winner, televoting was first introduced to the contest in 1997 on a trial basis.[100] At the 1997 contest, broadcasters in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom allowed their viewing public to determine their votes for the first time, and from 1998 televoting was extended to almost all competing countries.[129] The 2004 contest was the first to make televoting mandatory for all competing countries, however each country was obligated to provide a "backup jury", which would be used in case of voting failure, or if the number of votes registered did not pass a set threshold to be considered valid.[130][131] A jury was reintroduced for the grand final of the 2009 contest, with each country's points comprising both the votes of the jury and public in an equal split; this mix of jury and public voting was expanded into the semi-finals from 2010.[132][133]

The current voting system is a modification of that used in the contest since 1975, when the "1–8, 10, 12 points" system was first introduced. Until 2016, each country provided one set of points, representing the votes of either the country's jury, public or, since the 2009 grand final, the votes of both combined.[125][133]

Presentation of the votes

The scoreboard at the 1958 contest

Since 1957, each country's votes have been announced as part of a voting segment of the contest's broadcast. After each country's votes have been calculated and verified, and following performances during the interval, the presenter(s) of the contest will call upon a spokesperson in each country in turn to invite them to announce the results of their country's vote in English or French.[127] This spokesperson is typically a musician, broadcaster or journalist who is well-known in their country, and previous spokespersons have included former Eurovision artists and hosts.[134] Prior to 1994 the announcements were made through telephone lines from the countries of origin, with the audio piped through into the auditorium for the audience to hear and over the television transmission; the 1994 contest saw the introduction of satellite links for the voting, which has allowed the spokespersons to be seen visually by the audience and TV spectators.[135]

The votes from each country are tallied via a scoreboard, which typically shows the total number of points each country has so far received, as well as the points being given out by the country currently being called upon by the presenter(s). The scoreboard was first introduced in 1957; voting at the first contest was held behind closed doors, but taking inspiration from the UK's Festival of British Popular Songs which featured voting by regional juries, the EBU decided to incorporate this idea into its own contest.[9] This scoreboard was historically situated physically to the side of the stage and was updated manually as each country gave their votes; a graphical representation of this scoreboard was first introduced at the 1988 contest, which in recent contests is able to sort itself to place the country with the most votes at the top.[136][137]

Historically, each country's spokesperson would announce all points being given out in sequence, which would then be repeated by the contest's presenter(s) in both English and French. With the increase in the number of competing countries, and therefore the number of countries voting in the final, the voting sequence soon became a lengthy process. From 2006, in order to save time, only each country's 8, 10 and 12 points were announced by their spokesperson, with points 1-7 automatically added to the scoreboard.[138][139] Since the introduction of the new voting system in 2016, the spokespersons now announce only their country's 12 points, with their 8 and 10 points now also being shown on screen automatically.[134]

The electronic scoreboard used at the 2004 contest, with Johnny Logan announcing the votes from Ireland

From 1957 to 1962, the order in which the participating countries announced their votes was in reverse order of the presentation of their songs; from 1963 to 2003, countries were called upon in the same order in which they presented their songs, with the exception of the 1974 contest, where a drawing of lots was used to decide the order in which countries were called upon.[60][140] With the introduction of semi-finals in 2004, a new system to determine the order of voting was required to account for the countries which failed to qualify for the final: in 2004, the countries were called upon in alphabetical order according to their two-letter ISO country codes;[141] and in 2005, the votes of the non-qualifying semi-finalists were announced first, in the order in which they performed in the semi-final, followed by the finalist countries in the order in which they performed in the final.[142] From 2006 to 2010, similar to 1974, a separate draw was held to determine the voting order;[143] this draw was scrapped in 2011, when it was decided that the contest's producers would now decide the order. This order is based upon the jury results submitted after the "jury final" dress rehearsal the day before the grand final, in order to create a more suspenseful experience for the viewing public.[144]

Since 2016, when the votes of each country's jury and public are announced separately, the voting presentation begins with each country's spokespersons being called upon in turn to announce the points of their country's professional jury. Once the jury points from all countries have been announced, the contest's presenter(s) will then announce the total public points received for each finalist, with the results of all countries consolidated into a single value for each participating country.[125] From 2016 to 2018, the public points were announced in order from last to first, with the country with the lowest total score announced first; since 2019, these points have been announced in order according to their placing by the juries, with the country which received the fewest points from the juries receiving their public points first.[127] The full televoting results, and the votes of each country's jury and individual jury members, are published on the official Eurovision website after the show, with the individual televoting points for each country typically shown on screen towards the end of the show by that country's broadcaster.[125]

Ties for first place

Since 1970, the rules of the contest outline how to determine the winning country in cases where two or more countries have the same number of points at the end of the voting. The method of breaking a tie has changed over time, and the current tie-break rule has been in place since 2016. In this event, a combined national televoting and jury result is calculated for each country, and the winner is the song which has obtained points from the highest number of countries.[127]

The first tie-break rule was introduced following the 1969 contest, when four of the sixteen countries taking part—France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom—all finished the voting with an equal number of votes.[145] As there was no rule in place to break the tie, all four were declared joint winners.[7] This result led to a number of other competing countries to voice their dissatisfaction, and Norway, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and Austria all refused to take part in the 1970 edition of the contest.[57][68][146]

As of 2020, on only one occasion since 1969 has there been a tie for first place: in 1991, at the end of the voting procedure both Sweden and France had received 146 points each. The tie-breaking rule in place at the time specified that the country which had received the most sets of 12 points would be declared the winner; if there was still a tie, then the 10 points received, followed by 8 points, etc. would be used to break the tie. Both France and Sweden had received four sets of 12 points, however as Sweden had received more individual 10 points than France, Sweden's Carola was declared the winner.[147][148]

Validation and observation

A number of steps have been established to ensure that a valid voting result is obtained and that transparency in the vote and results is observed.[149]

Each country's professional jury, as well as the individual jury members, must meet a set criteria to be eligible, regarding professional background, and diversity in gender and age. A set criteria is outlined against which the competing entries should be evaluated against, and all jury members pledge in writing that they will use this criteria when ranking the entries, as well as stating that they are not connected to any of the contestants in any way that could influence their decision. Additionally, jury members may only sit on a jury once every three years. Each jury member votes independently of the other members of the jury, and no discussion or deliberation about the vote between members is permitted.[149][150]

Since 2004, the televoting in each country has been overseen by the contest's official voting partner, the German-based Digame. This company gathers all televotes and, since 2009, jury votes in all countries, which are then processed by the company's Pan-European Response Platform, based out of their Voting Control Centre in Cologne, Germany. This system ensures that all votes are counted in accordance with the rules, and that any attempts to unfairly influence the vote are detected and mitigated.[149] The entire voting process is overseen by independent observers from an external auditing company, which for the 2019 contest came from professional services firm EY.[127][150]


Participating broadcasters from competing countries are required to air live the semi-final in which they compete, or in the case of the automatic finalists the semi-final in which they are required to vote, and the grand final, in its entirety, including all competing songs, the voting recap which contains short clips of the performances, the voting procedure or semi-final qualification reveal, and in the grand final the reprise of the winning song.[43][103] Since 1999, broadcasters who wished to do so were given the opportunity to provide advertising during short, non-essential hiatuses in the show's schedule.[94]

On a number of occasions participating broadcasters have been forced to delay or postpone broadcast of one or more live shows due to mitigating circumstances: in 2000, the contest was interrupted in the Netherlands in order to provide emergency news coverage of the Enschede fireworks disaster, which meant a televote could not be held and the country's backup jury was used to provide the country's points;[151][152] and in 2012, Albania broadcast the first semi-final, in which they were competing, deferred in order to provide coverage of the Qafa e Vishës bus accident.[153] In both of these cases no sanctions were levied against the broadcasters due to the emergency nature of the incidents, however in 2009, when Spain deferred broadcast of the second semi-final in order to provide continuing coverage of the Madrid Open tennis tournament, the EBU announced that sanctions would be levied against the Spanish broadcaster RTVE.[154][155]

The contest was first produced in colour in 1968, and has been broadcast in widescreen since 2005, and in high-definition since 2007.[156][157][158][159]

Archive status

An archiving project was initiated by the EBU in 2011, aiming to collate footage from all editions of the contest and related materials from its history ahead of the contest's 60th anniversary in 2015.[160] In collaborating with member broadcasters, the EBU now holds all editions of the contest except for the 1956 and 1964 editions, of which no video footage is believed to exist.[159]

The first contest in 1956 was primarily a radio show, however cameras were present to broadcast the show for the few Europeans who had a television set; any video footage which may have been recorded has since been lost over time, however audio of the contest has been preserved and a short newsreel of the winning reprise has survived.[6][161] Conflicting reports of the fate of any video footage of the 1964 contest in Copenhagen have been recanted over the years: one claim is that footage of the contest was destroyed in a fire at the studios of Danish broadcaster DR in the 1970s, with no footage from other broadcasters known to exist;[162][163] other claims include that footage of the contest was lost when the tape was wiped by DR management for use in recording new programming, or that DR did not record the show at all due to a lack of available tape recorders.[164][165] As with the 1956 contest, audio recordings of the 1964 contest, and some footage of the opening sequence and winning reprise have survived.[166][163]

The copyright of each individual contest from 1956 to 2003 is held by the organising host broadcaster for that year's contest. Since 2004, the rights to each contest are now held centrally by the EBU.[167]

Expansion of the contest

Participants in the Eurovision Song Contest, coloured by decade of debut
Regular participants in 1992. Yugoslavia is coloured in red: 1992 was the last year in which that nation participated under one name.
Regular participants in 1994. Changes from 1992 include the addition of Central and Eastern European countries, and the separation of ex-Yugoslav states.

From the original seven countries which entered the first contest in 1956, the number of competing countries has steadily grown over time, with over 20 countries regularly competing by the late 1980s.

The first discussions around modifying the contest's format to account for the growth in competing countries took place in the 1960s. In 1965, with the contest now ten years old, the EBU invited participating broadcasters to share proposals for the future of the contest after the Luxembourgish broadcaster CLT expressed doubts about their ability to stage the 1966 contest.[93] Among the suggestions received were semi-finals based on a regional or a linguistic basis; hosting the contest over multiple evenings; and transmitting the contest from multiple locations over one evening, with competing acts split into two groups and performing from two different locations, with the presenting and scoreboard being held in one of these locations or from a third location.[93] Many of these proposals were deemed unworkable and were rejected, with concerns raised that viewers in countries eliminated in the semi-finals would lose interest and not bother to watch the final, and in the case of a contest over multiple locations the added cost of two orchestras, the added risk of technical failure with two sets of production facilities, and the potential that sound quality in each of the locations would not be the same, giving the artists in one location an advantage over the other.[93]

Besides slight modifications to the voting system in use and other rules, no fundamental changes to the contest's format were introduced until the early 1990s, when changes in Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the formation of new countries and interest in the contest from countries in the former Eastern Bloc began to grow, particularly after the cessation of the Eastern European rival OIRT network and its merger with the EBU in 1993.[168]

Pre-selections and relegation

1993 saw a marked increase in the number of countries wishing to compete in the contest: 29 countries registered to take part, too many to fit reasonably into a single TV show. To reduce this number, the contest organisers implemented a preselection method for the first time, to reduce the number of entries that would compete at the main contest in Millstreet, Ireland. Seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe looking to take part for the first time competed in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet (English: Preselection for Millstreet), held in Ljubljana, Slovenia one month before the contest, with the top three countries qualifying. At the close of the voting, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia, were chosen to head to Millstreet, meaning Estonia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia would have to wait another year before being allowed to compete.[49][169] A new relegation system was introduced in 1993 for entry into the 1994 contest: the lowest-placed countries each year would be forced to sit out of the following year's contest, to be replaced by new countries and those that had previously had to sit out. The bottom seven countries in 1993 were asked to miss out the following year, however as Italy and Luxembourg withdrew voluntarily, only the bottom five countries eventually missed the 1994 contest in Dublin, to be replaced by the four competing countries in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet that had missed out and new entries from Lithuania, Poland and Russia.[49][135][170]

This system was used again in 1994 for qualification for the 1995 contest, but a new system was introduced for the 1996 contest. Primarily in an attempt to appease Germany, one of Eurovision's biggest markets and biggest financial contributors which would have otherwise been relegated under the previous system, the 1996 contest saw an audio-only qualification round held in the months before the contest in Oslo, Norway.[171][172] 29 countries would compete for 22 places in the main contest, with the Norwegian hosts automatically qualified. However Germany would be one of the seven countries to miss out, alongside Hungary, Romania, Russia, Denmark, Israel, and Macedonia, in what would have been their debut entry in the contest.[171][172] 1996 marked the only use of the audio-only qualifying round, and for the 1997 contest a similar relegation system to the one used between 1993 and 1995 was brought in, based upon each country's average scores in the preceding five contests as a measure against which countries would be relegated.[129][100] This was subsequently changed again in 2001, back to the same system used between 1993 and 1995 where only the results from that year's contest would count towards relegation.[48][173]

The "Big Four" and "Big Five"

In 1999 the rules on country relegation were changed to exempt France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom from relegation, giving them the automatic right to compete regardless of their five-year point average. This group, as the highest-paying European Broadcasting Union members which significantly fund the contest each year, subsequently became known as the "Big Four" countries.[101][102][94] This group was expanded in 2011 when Italy returned to the contest, becoming the "Big Five".[174]

This rule was originally brought in to prevent the contest's biggest financial backers from being relegated, and therefore their financial contribution would have been missed; however, since the introduction of the semi-finals in 2004, the "Big Five" now instead automatically qualify for the final along with the host country.[175][176]

There is some debate around whether this status prejudices the countries' results in the contest, based on reported antipathy over their automatic qualification, as well as the potential disadvantage of having performed less time on the main stage because they have not had to compete in the semi-finals.[32][177] However, this debate appears to be much more complex as results of the "Big Five" countries can vary widely at the same contest: at the 2019 contest, for example, Italy finished in second place whereas three other members of the "Big Five", namely Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, placed outside the top 20 countries.[32] This status has also caused consternation for some of the other competing countries, and was cited, among other aspects of the contest, as a reason why Turkey had ceased competing in the contest after 2012.[178]

Introduction of semi-finals

Each country's qualification rates from 2004 to present

An influx of new countries for the 2003 contest forced the contest's Reference Group to rethink on how best to manage the still-growing number of countries looking to enter the contest for the first time. As they deemed it not possible to eliminate 10 countries each year, for the 2003 contest the organisers placed an initial freeze on new applications while they found a solution to this problem.[179] 25 countries were originally scheduled to take part at the contest in Riga, Latvia, however Ukraine was added to the participants list at a late stage, making their debut appearance.[180] The other new applicant countries, rumoured to include Albania, Belarus, the Czech Republic and Serbia and Montenegro, would therefore be required to sit out for another year.[179][181]

In January 2003, the EBU announced the introduction of a semi-final, expanding the contest into a two-day event from 2004.[181] The top 10 countries in each year's final would qualify automatically to the following year's final, alongside the "Big Four", meaning all other countries would compete in the semi-final to compete for 10 spots in the final.[175] The 2004 contest in Istanbul, Turkey, saw a record 36 countries competing, with new entries from Albania, Andorra, Belarus and Serbia and Montenegro, and the previously relegated countries from 2003 returning alongside Monaco, in its first appearance at the contest in 25 years.[175][182] The format of this semi-final remained similar to the final proper, taking place on the Wednesday during "Eurovision week". Following the performances and the voting window, the names of the 10 countries with the highest number of points, which would therefore qualify for the grand final, are announced at the end of the show, revealed in a random order by the contest's presenters.[175][182]

The single semi-final continued to be held between 2005 and 2007, however by 2007, with over 40 countries competing in that year's contest in Helsinki, Finland, the semi-final featured 28 entries competing for 10 spots in the final.[183] Subsequently, in response to criticism of the mainly Eastern European qualifiers at the 2007 event and the apparent snubbing of the entries from Western European nations, the EBU announced in October 2007 that for the 2008 contest in Belgrade, Serbia, a second semi-final would be introduced.[184][185][186] All countries would now compete in one of the two semi-finals, held on the Tuesday and Thursday of "Eurovision week", with only the host country and the "Big Four", and subsequently the "Big Five" from 2011, qualifying automatically; 10 qualification spots would be available in each of the semi-finals, with a new system introduced to split the competing countries between the two semi-finals based on their geographic location and previous voting patterns, in an attempt to reduce the impact of bloc voting and to make the outcome less predictable.[187][188][189] Voting in each semi-final is conducted only in the countries competing in that semi-final, as such only those countries are obligated to broadcast that semi-final, however many countries will air both semi-finals. The automatic finalists are also split between the two semi-finals for the purpose of determining which semi-final they are obligated to air and provide votes.[43][188] For the 2008 and 2009 contest, nine of the ten qualifiers in each semi-final were decided by the televoting public in each country, with the 10th qualifier being filled by the highest non-qualifier as determined by the results of the back-up juries;[188][189] this system was subsequently discarded in 2010 with the introduction of split jury-public voting in all shows.[133]

Full voting results from the semi-finals are withheld until after the grand final, whereupon they are published on the official Eurovision website.[43] As of 2019, only two countries have qualified from every semi-final in which they have participated: Australia and Ukraine; conversely, Andorra remains the only country to have never competed in a grand final.[13]


Each country's win record in the contest as of the 2019 contest

67 songs have won the Eurovision Song Contest as of 2019, representing 27 countries.[8] Ireland holds the record for the most wins, seven in total, followed by Sweden with six wins, and France, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands with five wins each.[7][8] 24 countries have participated in the contest but have yet to win.[13]

On only one occasion has the contest seen multiple winners being declared in a single contest: in 1969, four countries finished the contest with an equal number of votes; with the lack of a rule in place at the time to break a tie for first place, all four countries were declared winners.[7][146]

The United Kingdom holds the record for the number of second place finishes, having come runner-up in the contest 15 times.[190] Norway, meanwhile, has come last more than any other country, featuring at the bottom of the scoreboard on 11 occasions, including scoring nul points four times.[7][191]

The various competing countries have had varying degrees of success in the contest over the years. Only two countries have won the contest in their first appearance: Switzerland, the winner of the first contest in 1956; and Serbia, which won the contest in 2007 in their first participation as an independent country, having previously competed as part of Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro in previous contests.[156]

It is rare, but not impossible, for a country to record back-to-back wins. In the contest's history this has occurred on four occasions: Spain became the first country to do so, when they was declared the winners of the 1968 contest and one of the four shared winners in 1969; Luxembourg was the first to do so without sharing the title, when they won the contest in 1972 and 1973; Israel did likewise in 1978 and 1979; and Ireland became the first country to win three consecutive titles, winning the contest in 1992, 1993 and 1994.[192] Ireland's winning streak in the 1990s also includes the 1996 contest, giving them a record four wins in five years.[193]

A number of countries have had relatively short waits before winning their first contest: Ukraine won on their second appearance in 2004, while Latvia won in their third contest in 2002.[192] In comparison, other countries have competed in the contest for years, sometimes decades, before recording their first win. Greece set the record for the longest wait for a win in the contest in 2005, when Elena Paparizou won the contest 31 years after Greece's first appearance; the following year Finland broke this record, when Lordi ended a 45-year losing streak for the Nordic country.[192][138] Over a decade later, in 2017, Portugal broke this record once again, when Salvador Sobral became the first Portuguese winner 53 years after the country's first participation in the contest.[194]

Many countries have also had to wait many years to win the contest again. Switzerland went 32 years before winning the contest for a second time in 1988; Denmark held a 37-year gap between wins in 1963 and 2000, and the Netherlands waited 44 years to win the contest again in 2019, their most recent win having been in 1975.[13][192] The current record is held by Austria, which won its second contest in 2014, 48 years after their first win in 1966.[13][195]

The majority of the winning songs have been performed at the contest in English, particularly since the language rule was abolished in 1999. Since that contest, only five winning songs have been performed either fully or partially in a language other than English.[13]

Trophy presentation

The official Eurovision trophy in 2016

In winning the contest, the artists and songwriters receive a trophy, which since 2008 has featured a standard design. This trophy is a handmade piece of sandblasted glass with painted details in the shape of a 1950s-style microphone, and was designed by Kjell Engman of Swedish-based Kosta Boda, who specialise in glass art.[29][196] The songwriters and composers of the winning entry receive smaller versions of the trophy.[29]

The trophy is typically presented by the previous year's winner, however other individuals have been called upon in the past to hand out the award, including representatives from the host broadcaster, the EBU, politicians, and even fictional characters, as was the case in 2007 in Helsinki, Finland, when Joulupukki, known internationally as Santa Claus, presented the award to the winner Marija Šerifović.[197][156]

Winning artists and songs

Johnny Logan is the only performer to have won the contest twice, in 1980 (pictured) and 1987

Winning performers from the Eurovision Song Contest feature as some of the world's best-selling artists, while a number of the contest's winning songs have went to become some of the best-selling singles globally. ABBA, the winners of the 1974 contest for Sweden, have sold an estimated 380 million albums and singles since their contest win propelled them to worldwide fame, with their winning song "Waterloo" having sold over five million records.[198][199] Celine Dion, the French Canadian singer who won for Switzerland in 1988 with "Ne partez pas sans moi", has sold more than 200 million records worldwide.[200] "Save Your Kisses for Me", the winning song at the 1976 contest for the United Kingdom's Brotherhood of Man, is one of the contest's most successful winners, selling over six millions singles, more than any other winning song in the history of the contest.[201][202] More recently, "Euphoria", performed by Loreen and the winning song for Sweden in 2012, achieved Europe-wide success following the contest, featuring in singles charts across Europe and becoming the UK's most downloaded Eurovision song, peaking at #3 on the UK Singles Chart.[203]

Several past winners have gone on to achieve continued success, both locally and internationally: Bucks Fizz, formed especially for the 1981 contest and the eventual winners for the United Kingdom with "Making Your Mind Up", continued to release hit songs through the 1980s;[204] France Gall, the French singer who won for Luxembourg in 1965 as a 17 year old with the song "Poupée de cire, poupée de son", had a long career and recorded and performed into the 1990s;[205] and Vicky Leandros, the Greek singer who won for Luxembourg in 1972 with "Après toi", continues to record and release albums, particularly in the German language market, including an attempt to represent Germany at the 2006 contest held in Athens.[206] Other winning artists have gone on to contribute to other fields. Dana, Ireland's winner at the 1970 contest with "All Kinds of Everything", went on to serve as a Member of the European Parliament and ran unsuccessfully in two Irish presidential elections.[207][208]

Several non-winning songs have also gone on to achieve great success: "Nel blu, dipinto di blu", popularly known as "Volare", the third-placed song in the 1958 contest for Italy and originally performed in the contest by Domenico Modugno, has been recorded by various artists over the years, with combined sales of over 22 million copies worldwide;[209] "Eres tú", performed by Spain's Mocedades and runner-up at the 1973 contest, went on to achieve success worldwide, becoming the only Spanish-language song to reach the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States;[210] The Grammy Award-nominated "Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit", which originally came eighth in the 1996 contest for the United Kingdom, reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart (the last Eurovision song to achieve this as of 2020) and achieved success across Europe and the US, selling 790,000 records and peaking at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.[211][212][213] The video for "Occidentali's Karma" by Francesco Gabbani, the sixth-placed song in the 2017 contest for Italy, has become the first Eurovision song to reach more than 200 million views on YouTube, while "Soldi", the runner-up at the 2019 contest, by Italian Mahmood is the most-streamed Eurovision song on Spotify.[214][215]

Johnny Logan remains the only artist to have won multiple Eurovision titles as a performer, winning the contest for Ireland in 1980 with "What's Another Year", written by Shay Healy, and in 1987 with "Hold Me Now", written by Logan himself. Logan was also the winning songwriter at the 1992 contest when he wrote another Irish winner, "Why Me?" performed by Linda Martin, and has therefore achieved three victories in the contest as either a performer or writer.[216] Four further songwriters have also each written two contest-winning songs: Willy van Hemert, Yves Dessca, Rolf Løvland, and Brendan Graham.[217]

Interval acts and guest appearances

Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley (pictured in 2010) featured in Riverdance, the interval act at the 1994 contest

Besides the song contest itself, the television broadcast regularly features performances from artists and musicians which are not competing in the contest, as may also include appearances from local and international personalities.[34][218] Guest performances were first seen at the contest's first edition, and have become a staple of the live show since the 1960s.[197] These performances have varied widely, with music, art, dance, and circus performances having featured in past editions. Previous winners of the contest also regularly feature, with the reigning champion traditionally returning to perform last year's winning song, as well as sometimes performing a new song from their repertoire.[34]

The interval act, held after the final competing song has been performed and before the announcement of each country's votes, has become a memorable part of the contest and has featured both internationally-known artists and local stars. Contest organisers have previously used these performances as a way to explore their country's culture and history, such as in "4,000 Years of Greek Song", performed at the 2006 contest held in Athens, Greece;[219] other performances have been more comedic in nature, featuring parody and humour, as was the case at the 2016 contest when "Love Love Peace Peace", a humorous ode to the history and spectacle of the contest itself, was performed by the contest's hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw and featured several of the contest's most memorable moments and past winners.[220]

The first public appearance of Riverdance was as part of the Eurovision Song Contest interval at the 1994 contest held in Dublin, Ireland; the seven-minute performance featuring traditional Irish music and dance was later expanded into a full stage show that has since been performed at over 450 venues worldwide and seen by over 25 million people, becoming one of the most successful dance productions in the world and a launchpad for its lead dancers Michael Flatley and Jean Butler.[221][222] Riverdance was subsequently invited the perform as the interval act at both the 50th and 60th anniversary specials in 2005 and 2015 respectively.[223][224][225]

Recent contests have seen a number of world-renowned artists take to the Eurovision stage in non-competitive performances: Danish Europop group Aqua performed a music medley, which included their worldwide hit "Barbie Girl", at the 2001 contest held in Copenhagen, Denmark;[226][227] Russian duo t.A.T.u., who had previously represented Russia at the contest in 2003, performed their hit song "Not Gonna Get Us" alongside the Alexandrov Ensemble at the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia;[228] American entertainer Justin Timberlake gave the first televised performance of the Grammy Award-winning "Can't Stop the Feeling!" as part of the interval act at the 2016 contest;[229][230] and the self-styled "Queen of Pop" Madonna featured at the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, Israel, in a controversial performance tinged with politics featuring her songs "Like a Prayer" and "Future".[231][232] Montreal-based circus company Cirque du Soleil has also performed at the song contest, opening the contest's grand final in 2009.[233]

"Love Love Peace Peace" at the 2016 grand final, performed by Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw and featuring three previous contest winners

Guest performances in the contest's history have also been used as a channel and response to global events happening at the same time as the contest. The 1999 contest in Jerusalem closed with the contest's presenters inviting all competing acts onto the stage to sing a rendition of the English version of "Hallelujah", the Israeli winning song from 1979, as a tribute to the victims of the ongoing war in the Balkans.[234][102] In 2016, part of the interval act for the first semi-final featured a dance performance entitled "The Grey People", choreographed by Fredrik Rydman and devoted to the European migrant crisis.[235][236][237]

The contest has featured guest appearances from well-known faces from outside the world of music. These include athletes, such as boxers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko in 2005, tennis players Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic and basketball star Vlade Divac in 2008, and footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović in 2013; and actors such as Gal Gadot in 2019.[131][238][239][240][241] The contest has also seen the appearance of serving astronauts and cosmonauts, with Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko providing a greeting live from the International Space Station at the 2003 contest in Riga, Latvia. At the same contest, Elton John made a guest appearance, speaking with the presenters live from the Life Ball in Vienna.[180]

A number of new features to the contest have been added in recent years. Since 2013, the tradition of opening the Grand Final with a "Parade of Nations", also called a "Flag Parade", has been established, which sees the competing artists entering the stage behind their country's flag in the order in which each country will perform, similar to the procession of competing athletes at the Olympic Games opening ceremony.[242] The most recent winner of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest has typically made a guest appearance in the Grand Final of the contest since 2014 and is interviewed at a press conference held to announce details of the latest edition of the junior contest.[243][244]

Anniversary shows and special events

Several special broadcasts have been commissioned over the years to mark important anniversaries in the contest's history. These broadcasts have featured both competitive and non-competitive formats, and typically consist of performances by past winners and artists as well as other memorable moments seen in previous contests.

The EBU has organised four special shows as of 2020 in collaboration with member broadcasters, which have been broadcast through its networks. Individual broadcasters have also commissioned their own shows for their audiences, which may or may not feature a voting element. Several alternative programmes were commissioned by broadcasters following the cancellation of the 2020 contest, with Austria, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom among the countries to organise shows for their audiences.[245][246][247][248]

Songs of Europe

Songs of Europe was an event held to celebrate the contest's twenty-fifth anniversary, held during the summer of 1981 in Mysen, Norway, as part of Momarkedet, an annual charity concert held at Mysen's Momarken racecourse and organised by the Mysen Red Cross.[249] Songs of Europe featured live performances and video recordings of all Eurovision Song Contest winners up to 1981, and was broadcast through the Eurovision network via the Norwegian host broadcaster NRK.[250][251][252]

Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest

Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest was a television programme broadcast on 22 October 2005, organised by the EBU and produced by Danish broadcaster DR. Held at the Forum Copenhagen in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark and hosted by former Eurovision contestants Katrina Leskanich and Renārs Kaupers, 14 songs from the contest's first 50 years, chosen by Eurovision fans through an online vote and by the contest's Reference Group, took part in a competition to determine the most popular song in the contest's history.[253][254]

Broadcast live to 31 countries which had taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest up to 2005, the winner was crowned by the combined votes of juries and the viewing public through televoting over two rounds: in the first round, the number of competing songs was reduced to five, with each country giving points to their top 10 songs through the standard Eurovision voting system; in the second round, the winner was declared following a second round of voting, where only six points and above were given out.[253][255]

Alongside the competition, the programme also featured highlights from Eurovision Song Contest history, special performances from former participants, and video medleys from past contests.[223] The winning song, announced at the end of the show, was "Waterloo" by ABBA, the winning song from the 1974 contest for Sweden.[253]

Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits

Graham Norton and Petra Mede, the hosts of Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits

Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits was a concert celebrating the sixtieth anniversary, held at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom on 31 March 2015 and hosted by Graham Norton and Petra Mede.[256] Organised by the EBU and produced by the British broadcaster the BBC, the event was recorded and broadcast by over 20 Eurovision participating countries between April and May in the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest 2015.[257]

The non-competitive concert featured the participation of 15 past Eurovision artists from 13 countries, performing songs from the history of the contest, alongside video montages of several other Eurovision songs and behind-the-scenes footage of historical contests featured in-between the on-stage performances.[257][258][259]

Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light

Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light was a live television programme held on 16 May 2020, organised by the EBU and produced by the Dutch broadcasters NOS, NPO and AVROTROS.[260] Broadcast from Studio 21 of Media Park in Hilversum, Netherlands, the programme was held as a replacement to the 2020 contest, originally planned to be held at the Rotterdam Ahoy in Rotterdam on the same date, but was cancelled in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[261][22]

The programme provided a showcase for the 41 songs which would have competed at the 65th Eurovision Song Contest in a non-competitive format, and was hosted by Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley and Jan Smit, with NikkieTutorials providing online content. The two-hour long show also included appearances from past Eurovision artists connecting remotely with those in the Hilversum studio via live video linkups and through pre-recorded footage, including the most recent winner Duncan Laurence, who performed on location in Hilversum. In the final performance of the evening, the artists of Eurovision 2020 came together as a virtual choir to perform "Love Shine a Light", the winning song of the 1997 contest for the United Kingdom.[262][263]

Criticism and controversy

The contest has been the subject of criticism regarding both its musical contest and what some believe to be a political element to the contest, and several controversial moments have been witnessed over the course of its history.[264]

Musical style and presentation

Given the international nature of the contest and the diverse musical tastes of the viewing public, in many cases competing artists and songwriters will attempt to appeal to as many of these voters as possible with regards to their competing songs. This has led to some criticism that the music on offer from the participating entries is formulaic, with certain music styles seen as being presented more often than others, with power ballads, folk rhythms and bubblegum pop being considered staples of the contest in recent years.[265][266][267] Other traits which are regularly mocked as being abundant in the contest's entries include key changes, lyrics about love and/or peace, and the pronunciation of English by non-native users of the language.[265][268][269] Given Eurovision is principally a television show, over the years many performances have attempted to attract the viewers' attention through means other than music, with elaborate lighting displays, pyrotechnics, and extravagent on-stage theatrics and costumes having become a common sight at recent contests.[270][271]

Although many of these traits are ridiculed in the media and elsewhere, for some these traits are celebrated and considered an integral part of what makes the contest appealing.[272] Although many of the competing acts each year will fall into some of the categories above, the contest has seen a diverse range of musical styles in its history, including heavy metal, jazz, country, electronic, R&B and hip hop.[273][274][275]

Political controversies

As artists and songs ultimately represent a country, the contest has seen several controversial moments where political tensions between competing countries as a result of frozen conflicts and, in some cases open warfare, are reflected in the contest's performances and voting.

The continuing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has affected the contest on numerous occasions since both countries begun competing in the late 2000s. In 2009 a number of people in Azerbaijan who voted for the Armenian were reportedly questioned by Azeri police.[276] Armenia's entry to the 2015 contest received a name change following claims that it contained a call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, in contradition to the contest's rules regarding political messaging in competing songs.[43][277][278] Controversy erupted again in 2016 when Armenia's Iveta Mukuchyan was shown waving the flag of the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway state internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan but largely inhabited by ethnic Armenians, at the contest's first semi-final.[279] This again convened Eurovision rules on political gestures and resulted in displinary action being levied against Armenian broadcaster ARMTV.[280]

Interactions between Russia and Ukraine in the contest had originally been positive in the first years of co-competition, however as political relations soured between the two countries following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the prolonged conflict in Eastern Ukraine, so too have relations at Eurovision become more complex. In 2016, Ukraine's Jamala won the contest with the song "1944", whose lyrics referenced the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. Given the recent events in Crimea, many saw this song as a political statement against Russia's actions, however the song was permitted to compete given the largely historical nature of the song despite protests from Russia.[281][282] Calls for a Russian boycott of the 2017 contest in Ukraine were dismissed, however their selected representative for the contest in Kiev, Yuliya Samoylova, was subsequently banned from entering Ukraine after having sung in Crimea in 2015 and entering the region "illegally", coming directly from Russia rather than going through Ukraine.[283] Offers for Samoylova to compete remotely from a venue in Russia or for a change of artist were rejected by Russia's Channel One, with Russia eventually pulling out of the contest and the EBU reprimanding Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC and threatening to exclude Ukraine from future contests.[284][285]

Georgia's planned entry for the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia also caused controversy: in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War in 2009, Stephane & 3G were selected to compete with the song "We Don't Wanna Put In", however the EBU objected to the lyrics as they appeared to criticise Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Requests by the contest's organisers for the lyrics of the song to be changed were refused by the group, and Georgian broadcaster GPB subsequenty withdrew from the event.[286][287] A number of boycotts of the same event were considered by the Baltic states over Russia's actions in Georgia, however none eventually occurred, with Estonian broadcaster ERR hosting a poll on its website to gauge public opinion on competing in Russia.[287][288]

"Political" and geographical voting

Voting preferences in Eurovision 1997 to 2017
Voting preferences between countries in Eurovision between 1997 and 2017
Neglect in Eurovision 2010 to 2015
Mutual neglect of score allocations in Eurovision between 2010 and 2015
Produced using the methods presented in:;[289][290] a network of the significant score deviations can be viewed over a time period of interest.

The contest has long been accused of what has been described as "political voting": a perception that countries will give votes more frequently and in higher quantities to other countries based on political relationships, rather than the musical merits of the songs themselves.[291][292] Numerous studies and academic papers have been written on the subject, which have corroborated evidence that certain countries tend to form "clusters" or "cliques" by frequently voting in the same way; one study concludes that voting blocs can play a crucial role in deciding the winner of the contest, with evidence that on at least two occasions bloc voting was a pivotal factor in the vote for the winning song.[293][294] Other views on these "blocs" argue that certain countries will allocate disproportionately high points to others based on similar musical tastes, shared cultural links and a high degree of similarity and, in some cases, mutual intelligibility between languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate and vote for the competing songs from these countries based on these factors, rather than political relationships specifically.[295][296] Analysis on other voting patterns in the contest's history have revealed examples in some countries that indicate voting preferences based on shared religion, as well as a so-called "patriotic vote", particularly since the introduction of televoting in 1997, where large groups of foreign nationals in other countries vote for their country of origin en masse.[296][297]

Voting patterns in the contest have been reported by news publishers, including The Economist and BBC News.[298][299][300] Criticism of the voting system was at its highest in the mid-2000s, and the apparent voting biases resulted in a number of calls for countries to boycott the contest, particularly following the 2007 contest where Eastern European countries occupied the top 15 places in the final and dominated the qualifying spaces.[186][301] This apparent snub of the entries from more traditional Eurovision countries had even featured in debates in European national parliaments.[302] The apparent political nature of the voting was cited as among the reasons for the resignation of Terry Wogan as commentator for the UK, a role he had performed at every contest from 1980.[303][304]

With the introduction of a second semi-final in 2008, and to mitigate some of the aspects of bloc voting, the EBU introduced a system which splits countries between the two semi-finals. Based on research into televoting patterns in previous contests, countries are placed into pots with other countries that share similar voting histories, and a random draw distributes the countries in each pot across the two semi-finals, meaning that countries which traditionally award points to each other are separated.[187][305] The 2008 and 2009 contests also featured one of the qualifying countries in each semi-final being decided by the back-up juries, which in theory would be less susceptible to the kinds of bloc voting seen in the public vote.[305] From 2009, juries of music professionals have been given a 50% stake in the result of each country's vote, an initiative which has been welcomed by some as a means of diminishing the effects of voting patterns while maintaining involvement of the viewing public in the decision.[132][133][306]

LGBT visibility

Dana International, the contest's first trans participant, and winner of the 1998 contest for Israel

The contest has had a long-held fan base in the LGBT community, and Eurovision organisers have actively worked to include these fans since the 1990s.[307] Paul Oscar became the contest's first openly gay artist when he represented Iceland at the 1997 contest, and in 1998 the contest was won for the first time by a LGBT+ artist: Dana International was the contest's first trans performer, and won the contest for Israel with the song "Diva".[308][309] Dana International's selection for the 1998 contest in Birmingham was marked by objections and death threats from orthodox religious sections of Israeli society, and at the contest her accommodation was reportedly in the only hotel in Birmingham with bulletproof windows.[310][311] Several open members of the LGBT+ community have since gone on to compete and win the contest: Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of openly gay Thomas Neuwirth, won the 2014 contest for Austria; and openly bisexual performer Duncan Laurence was the winner of the 2019 contest for the Netherlands.[312][313] Marija Šerifović, who won the 2007 contest for Serbia, publicly came out as lesbian in 2013.[314] Several of the competing songs and performances have included references and allusions to same-sex relationships: one of the contest's earliest winning songs, Luxembourg's 1961 winner "Nous les amoureux", was confirmed by its performer Jean-Claude Pascal as containing references to a homosexual relationship and the difficulties faced by the pair, considered controversial during the early 1960s when in many European countries homosexual relations were still criminalised.[315]

In more recent years, various political ideologies across Europe have clashed in the Eurovision setting, particularly on LGBT rights. Turkey, once a regular participant in the contest and a one-time winner, first pulled out of the contest in 2013, citing dissatisfaction in the voting rules; more recently when asked about returning to the contest Turkish broadcaster TRT have cited LGBT performances as another reason for their continued boycott.[178][316] After initially planning on airing the 2013 contest, TRT pulled its broadcast in response to Finland's performer Krista Siegfrids, whose stage act of her entry "Marry Me" featured a same-sex kiss with one of her female backing dancers.[317] Although no official reason was given by the Hungarian broadcaster MTVA, it was reported that LGBT visibility in the contest was also a deciding factor when Hungary chose not to enter the 2020 contest amid a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán.[318][319]

Following the introduction of a "gay propaganda" law in Russia in 2013, as well as developments in Ukraine, the 2014 contest saw a marked increase in the amount of booing, particularly during the Russian performance and during the voting when Russia received points.[320][321] Conchita Wurst's win in the contest was also met with criticism on the Russian political stage, with several conservative politicians voicing displeasure in the result.[322] In response to the booing, the producers of the 2015 contest installed "anti-booing technology" for the broadcast, and the contest's presenters repeatedly called on the audience not to boo; the Russian participant, Polina Gagarina, was interviewed by Conchita in the green room during a break in the voting, and attracted criticism from Russian conservatives when she posted a backstage video to social media of herself hugging Conchita.[323][324]

Clashes on LGBT visibility in the contest have also occurred in countries which do not compete in the contest. Eurovision had been broadcast in China for several years, however in 2018, the rights held by Mango TV were terminated during the 2018 contest.[325] The live broadcast of the first semi-final featured censorship of two of the competing acts: the performance by Ireland's Ryan O'Shaughnessy featured two male dancers portraying a same-sex relationship, which reportedly went against Chinese guidelines that prohibit "abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours"; the performance by Albania's Eugent Bushpepa was also censored by the Internet broadcaster due to the open display of tattoos, which broke guidelines around featuring so-called "sub-cultures" and "dispirited cultures".[326] As a result of the termination, the Chinese broadcaster was unable to broadcast the second semi-final or the grand final of the 2018 contest or any future contests.[327]

Israeli participation

A mural in Girona calling for a boycott of the 2019 contest in Israel

Israel first competed in the contest in 1973, becoming the first Middle Eastern country and the first country from outside of Europe to enter. Its participation in the contest over the years has been at times controversial, but it has remained a regular competitor in the contest and been crowned the winner on four occasions. The country's first appearance was marked by an increased security presence at the contest venue in Luxembourg City than what would have been considered normal in the early 1970s, coming less than a year after the Munich massacre where 11 members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Armed guards were stationed at the venue, and the audience in attendance were warned not to stand during the show at the risk of being shot.[107][108][328]

The contest was regularly broadcast in the Arab world during the 1970s, however as many of these countries did not recognise Israel, their broadcasters typically cut to advertisements when Israel performed.[329] When in 1978 it became apparent that Israel was on course to win the contest, the broadcast in many of these countries was cut short before the end of the voting, with Jordanian broadcaster JRTV explaining the end of their transmission as due to "technical difficulties" and concluding its transmission with a image of a bunch of daffodils; Jordanian media later announced that Belgium, the eventual runner-up, had won instead.[330][331][332]

Israel's participation in the contest means that many Arab states that are eligible to participate in the contest choose not to do so, however a number of attempts have been made by some of the countries to enter. Tunisia had applied to take part in the 1977 contest, and had been drawn to perform 4th on stage, but later withdrew.[109][110] Morocco competed for the first, and as of 2020 the only time, in 1980 when Israel had withdrawn from the contest due to it being held on the same day as Yom HaShoah.[61][333][334] Most recently, Lebanon had signed up to compete in the 2005 contest, and had selected "Quand tout s'enfuit" as its debut entry, to be performed by Aline Lahoud. After being told by the EBU that they would have to broadcast the entire programme in full, including the Israeli entry, Télé Liban responded that they could not guarantee this as it would be incompatible with Lebanese law. The broadcaster therefore withdrew their entry, resulting in sanctions from the EBU due to the late withdrawal.[335]

Israel has hosted the contest on three occasions, and due to the preparations and rehearsals which accompany the contest, and the Saturday evening timeslot for the grand final, objections from Orthodox religious leaders in the country regarding the potential interruption to the Sabbath have been raised on all three occasions. In 1979 these objections were largely ignored and preparations for the contest were held mostly unchanged from standard, however Turkey was pressured into withdrawing from the contest by Arab states who objected to a predominantly Muslim country taking part in Israel.[336][329] Objections were again raised in 1999 with regards to the contest being held around the Sabbath, as well as criticism levelled against Dana International, the contest's first trans winner, leading to an attempt to stop the contest being held in Israel at all. However all of these criticisms were in vain and the contest went ahead as planned in Jerusalem.[102][337]

Most recently, in 2019, a number of controversial incidents occurred in the run-up to that year's contest in Tel Aviv. Requests were once again received from Orthodox leaders that the contest not interfere with the Sabbath, with a letter penned by Yaakov Litzman, leader of the ultra-Othodox United Torah Judaism party, to several government departments demanding that the contest now violate the holy day.[338] Shalva Band, one of the competing entries in the country's national selection for that year's contest, ultimately withdrew from contention when told that, should they win, they would be required to perform in rehearsals on the Sabbath; the group ultimately performed as an interval act during the contest's second semi-final.[339][340] The 2019 contest in Israel also saw calls from a number of different groups for a boycott of the event, which included proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in response to the country's policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in opposition to what some see as Israeli "pinkwashing".[341][342] However many others also campaigned against a boycott of the event, asserting that any cultural boycott would be antithetical to advancing peace in the region.[343]

Cultural influence

Competing artists from the 2018 contest at the Eurovision Spain PreParty in Madrid

The Eurovision Song Contest has amassed a global following and sees annual audience figures of between 100 million and 600 million.[344][345] The contest has become a cultural influence worldwide since its first years, being featured as a topic of parody in television sketches, such as The Benny Hill Show and Monty Python's Flying Circus in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and in stage performances that have featured at the Edinburgh Fringe and Melbourne Comedy festivals among others.[267][346][347][348] A Netflix comedy film about the contest, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, was released in June 2020, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as a group representing Iceland at the contest.[349][350] The contest has been described as having kitsch appeal.[351][352]

The contest has a large online following, and multiple independent websites, news blogs and fan clubs are dedicated to the contest. One of the oldest and largest Eurovision fan clubs is OGAE, founded in 1984 in Finland and currently a network of over 40 national branches across the world. National branches regularly host events to promote and celebrate Eurovision, and several participating broadcasters work closely with these branches when preparing their entries.[353]

In the run-up to each year's contest, several countries regularly host smaller events between the conclusion of the national selection shows and the contest proper; these events typically feature the artists which will go on to compete at the contest, and consist of performances at a venue and "meet and greets" with fans and the press. "Eurovision in Concert", held annually in Amsterdam, was one of the first of these events to be created, holding its first event in 2008.[354][355] Other events held regularly include the "London Eurovision Party", the "ESPreParty" in Madrid, and the "Eurovision PreParty" in Riga.[356][357][358][359]

With the cancellation of the contest in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of many of the pre-contest events, a fan initiative to bring Eurovision fans together during the resulting lockdowns introduced in many European countries resulted in #EurovisionAgain, created by journalist and Eurovision fan Rob Holley, where fans watched old contests in sync via YouTube and contributed to discussions via Twitter as the contest unfolded, with online voting held to choose a winner. The hashtag regularly became a top trend on Twitter across Europe with each edition, and soon caught the attention of Eurovision organisers, who began to broadcast the contests through their official YouTube channel, and European news organisations soon also began to report on this fan initiative.[360][361] Through the EBU, the initiative was able to secure the rights to show several older editions of the contest for the first time on their YouTube channel, and over £20,000 was raised for UK based LGBTQ+ charities during the initial run of the event.[167][159]

The contest is regularly reported in worldwide media, including in countries which do not take part in the contest, and has been broadcast across the globe, with past editions of the contest having aired in Canada, China, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and the United States.[362][363][364][365][366][367]

Spin-offs and related shows

As a result of the contest's popularity, a number of spin-offs and imitators have been developed and produced over the years, on both a national and international level. The European Broadcasting Union has organised a number of related contests which focus on other aspects of music and culture, as part of their "Eurovision Live Events" brand.[368]

Eurovision Young Dancers

First held in 1985, Eurovision Young Dancers is a biennial dance competition for non-professional performers between the ages of 16 and 21.[369] Dancers perform as part of a couple or solo, performing one or more pre-prepared dance performances, with a jury panel representing the elements of ballet, contemporary, and modern dance styles giving a score based on their performance.[370]

15 contests have taken place as of 2020 and a total of 36 countries have taken part on at least one occasion.[371] The most recent contest was held in 2017, hosted in Prague, Czech Republic and organised by Czech broadcaster Česká televize (ČT).[369]

Eurovision Young Musicians

Eurovision Young Musicians is a biennial classical music competition for European musicians between the ages of 12 and 21, first held in 1982.[372] Musicians perform pieces of classical music of their choice, usually accompanied by the local orchestra of the host broadcast but previously also solo or with piano accompaniment, and a jury panel of individuals from the world of classical music score the musicians based on technical accuracy, quality of sound, interpretation and performance.[373][374]

19 contests have been held in its history, with 43 countries having taken part at least once.[375] The most recent contest was held in 2018 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom; the 2020 contest, which was scheduled to be held in Zagreb, Croatia in June 2020, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[372]

Junior Eurovision Song Contest

Ksenia Sitnik won the 3rd edition of the junior contest in 2005 for Belarus, giving the country their first win in a Eurovision event.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest is considered the Eurovision Song Contest's "little brother", with singers aged between 9 and 14 representing primarily European countries.[376][377] Based upon the Scandinavian contest MGP Nordic, the EBU has organised this international song contest since 2003, typically held in November or December, following many of the same rules as the adult contest: each participating broadcaster sends an original song of no more than three minutes in length to be performed by a chosen singer/group, with no more than six people on stage. The winning song is then decided by national juries and the viewing public through internet voting.[378][379]

In all, 17 contests have been organised since its first broadcast, with 39 countries having competed at least once.[378] The most recent contest was in 2019, held in Gliwice, Silesia, Poland and organised by Polish broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP).[380] The most recent winner of the junior contest has typically featured in a segment during the following year's adult contest, and several former artists have gone on to compete at the adult contest.[243][381][382][383]

Eurovision Choir

Eurovision Choir is a biennial choral competition for non-professional European choirs produced in partnership between the EBU and Interkultur and modelled after the World Choir Games. First held in 2017 and held as part of the European Choir Games, the contest sees choirs perform an unaccompanied choral set, with a three-member jury panel crowning a winner.[384][385] Two contests have been held, the latest taking place in 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden and produced by Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).[384][386]

Other related competitions

Similar competitions that are currently organised include:

Similar competitions that are proposed or in development include:

Similar competitions that are no longer held include:


  1. ^ Festivali i Këngës has been used to select Albania's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest since 2003.
  2. ^ Cân i Gymru was originally conceived as BBC Cymru's pre-selection show for Eurovision, when Wales expressed an interest in participating in the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest separately from the rest of the United Kingdom.


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