(it) L’Eurovision Song Contest è uno degli spettacoli televisivi più longevi del mondo. Fu il 24 maggio 1956 che l’Europa vide il primo Eurovision Song Contest. Dopo tutti questi anni, il concorso è una delle tradizioni europee più tipiche e, senza dubbio, il programma televisivo preferito in Europa! Nel 2005, l’Eurovision Song Contest ha celebrato il suo 50° anniversario scegliendo la migliore voce fino ad allora e nel 2015 il 60° anniversario con l’Eurovision Song Contest’s Greatest Hits a Londra e con una conferenza.

La storia dell’Eurovision Song Contest: Già da circa 68 anni, l’Eurovision Song Contest è il programma televisivo preferito in Europa. Dopo più di cinque decenni con migliaia di canzoni, il concorso è diventato un classico moderno, fortemente radicato nella mente collettiva europea.

Scarica: The Rules of the 1956 Eurovision Song Contest (.pdf) (copyright EBU)

Eurovision Song Contest

(Also known as Eurovision, ESC)

Logo usato 2015 ad oggi

Logo usato 2015 ad oggi

Genre Music competition
Created by EBU-UER (European Broadcasting Union) ad-hoc committee led by Marcel Bezençon / Sanremo Music Festival
Presented by Various presenters 
Composizione Musicale Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Theme Music Te Deum (Prelude to Te Deum, H. 146)


Guardare l’Elenco dei paesi partecipanti
Original languages English and French
No. of episodes 67 contests, 101 live shows – 59 contests One live show (1956-2003), Two live show (2004-2007) & Three live show (2008-ad oggi)
Production locations Various host cities
Running time ~2 hours (semi-finals)
~4 hours (finals)
Production companies European Broadcasting Union (EBU-UER), Various national broadcasters
Distribution Eurovision
Picture Format SDTV (4:3 aspect ratio) (1956–2004)
SDTV (16:9 aspect ratio) (2005–2006)
HDTV 1080i (2007–present)
Original release 24 May 1956 – present
Website Official website
Production website

(en) The Origins of Eurovision. The Eurovision Song Contest began as a technical experiment in television broadcasting: the live, simultaneous, transnational broadcast that Europe has now been watching for nearly 70 years was in the late 1950s a marvel.

The first Eurovision Song Contest was held on May 24, 1956, and saw seven nations compete: the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and Italy. Austria and Denmark wanted to take part but missed the deadline, and the United Kingdom sent their apologies as they were busy with their own contest that year.

In the first edition, each country submitted two songs, with Switzerland’s Lys Assia triumphing with her second song ‘Refrain’; the French language number fared better than her first ditty, ‘Das alte Karussell’.

Over the years the format has evolved into the week-long, boundary pushing, technologically innovative, multi show spectacular we enjoy today… but how did the Eurovision Song Contest first come about?

As television services were introduced in most European countries in the mid 20th century, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) created the Eurovision Network in 1954 for the exchange and production of common television programmes, in order to cost-effectively increase the programming material for national broadcasting organisations.

(en) The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la chanson), often known simply as Eurovision or by its initialism ESC, is an international song competition organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed live and transmitted to national broadcasters via the 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 annually (apart from 2020) since 1956, making it the longest-running annual international televised music competition and one of the world’s longest-running television programmes. Active members of the EBU, as well as invited associate members, are eligible to compete, and as of 2021, 52 countries have participated at least once. Each participating broadcaster sends one original song of three minutes duration or less to be performed live by a singer or group of up to six people aged 16 or older. Each country awards two sets of 1–8, 10 and 12 points to their favourite songs, based on the views of an assembled group of music professionals and the country’s viewing public, with the song receiving the most points declared the winner. Other performances feature alongside the competition, including a specially-commissioned opening and interval act and guest performances by musicians and other personalities, with past acts including Cirque du Soleil, Madonna and the first performance of Riverdance. Originally consisting of a single evening event, the contest has expanded 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 2021, 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.

Traditionally held in the country which won the preceding year’s event, the contest provides an opportunity to promote the host country and city as a tourist destination. Thousands of spectators attend each year, and journalists are present to cover all aspects of the contest, including rehearsals in venue, press conferences with the competing acts, and other related events and performances in the host city. Alongside the generic Eurovision logo, a unique theme and slogan is typically used for each event. The contest has aired in countries across all continents, and has been available online via the official Eurovision website since 2000. Eurovision ranks among the world’s most watched non-sporting events every year, with hundreds of millions of viewers globally, and performing at the contest has often provided 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, Olivia Newton-John and Flo Rida, and some of the world’s best-selling singles have received their first international performance on the Eurovision stage.

The contest has received criticism for its musical and artistic quality, and for a perceived political aspect to the event. Competing entries have previously been derided for spanning various ethnic and international styles, and in recent years a tendency towards elaborate stage shows has been highlighted as a distraction. Concerns have been raised regarding political friendships and rivalries between countries potentially influencing the results. Controversial moments from past editions include participating countries withdrawing at a late stage, censorship of segments of the broadcast by broadcasters, and political events impacting participation. Eurovision has however gained popularity for its kitsch appeal and emergence as part of LGBT culture, resulting in a large active fan base and influence on popular culture. The popularity of the contest has led to the creation of several similar events, either organised by the EBU or created by external organisations, and several special events have been organised by the EBU to celebrate select anniversaries or as a replacement due to cancellation.

Marcel Bezençon, the founder of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Marcel Bezençon, the founder of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The proposal for the Eurovision Network had come from Marcel Bezençon, the director general of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. But the idea for the Eurovision Song Contest would come from RAI. The Italian national broadcasting organisation began regular television services in January 1954, although the first experimental television broadcasts in Italy had occurred in Turin in 1934.

The most popular and successful programme that the Eurovision Network would produce would be its namesake: the Eurovision Song Contest. After the Eurovision Network broadcast its first programmes in 1954 in Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and (what was then) West Germany, discussions ensued in the EBU as to how its co-productions could be made more entertaining and spectacular.

Following suggestions put forward at the meeting of its Programme Committee in Monte Carlo, Monaco in 1955, the EBU decided at the session of its General Assembly in Rome later in that year to establish the Eurovision Song Contest. The inspiration for the Contest came from RAI, which had been staging Festival di Sanremo (the Sanremo Italian Song Festival) in the seaside resort town of the same name from 1951. Members of the Programme Committee attended the Sanremo Italian Song Festival in 1955, when it was also broadcast through the Eurovision Network.

However, Sanremo was not the only song contest in Italy at the time: in the mid-1950s, the City of Venice and RAI organised the International Song Festival in Venice. The first edition in 1955 included entries submitted by the radio services of EBU members from Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Monaco and the Netherlands. They each submitted six songs that were original and no longer than 3 and a half minutes, with the entries being voted on by national juries and the winner being awarded the Golden Gondola prize.

The Venice International Song Festival was therefore similar in its structure to the Eurovision Song Contest, except that it was only broadcast on radio. Still, the Venice International Song Festival was the world’s first-ever international song contest based on the participation of national broadcasting organisations, and some of its participants would go on to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Yet, for technical reasons, the first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 was not held in Italy but in Switzerland: its geographical centrality in Europe made it a natural node for the terrestrial transmitters required for this experiment in live, simultaneous, transnational broadcasting. The EBU’s headquarters were also in Switzerland. But the first Eurovision Song Contest still reflected an international fashion for Italian popular culture, as it was staged in the Swiss-Italian city of Lugano and was hosted in Italian.

In those first few Contests it seemed obvious to participating artists that they should enter songs sung in their native tongue, but as the event expanded and grew in popularity, songwriters began to assume that the more universal the lyrics, the more likely the song would resonate with juries. Which could explain the popularity of classic Eurovision winners like Boom Bang A Bang and La La La.

The rule on performing in your country’s native language changed over the years, alongside rules regarding the number of performers on stage, the inclusion of dance moves, and more recently the use of backing track vocals (brought in to reduce the number of delegation members needed to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic).

The Eurovision Song Contest is always evolving to provide the most exciting show for its millions of viewers across the planet. 

The history of the Eurovision Song Contest began as the brainchild of Marcel Bezençon of the EBU. The Contest was based on Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival and was designed to test the limits of live television broadcast technology. 

The first Contest was held on 24 May 1956, when seven nations participated. With a live orchestra, the norm in the early years, and simple sing-along songs on every radio station, the Contest grew into a true pan-European tradition.

Excusez-moi? In the beginning, it was obvious for the participants that they should sing in their country’s national language. However, as the Swedish entry in 1965, Absent Friend, was sung in English, the EBU set very strict rules on the language in which the songs could be performed. National languages had to be used in all lyrics. Song writers across Europe soon tagged onto the notion that success would only come if the judges could understand the content, resulting in such entries as Boom- Bang-A-Bang and La La La. In 1973, the rules on language use were relaxed, and in the following year ABBA would win with Waterloo. Those freedom of language rules would be soon reversed in 1977, to return with apparent permanent status in the 1999 contest.

ABBA, after their famous victory at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest for Sweden..jpg

ABBA, dopo la loro famosa vittoria all’Eurovision Song Contest 1974 per la Svezia.

Your votes please. The voting systems used in the Contest have changed throughout the years. The modern system has been in place since 1975. Voters award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to songs from other countries — with the favourite being awarded the now famous douze points.  Historically, a country’s set of votes was decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success and from 1998 all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible.

Nowadays members of the public may also vote by SMS. Whichever method of voting is used – jury, telephone or SMS – countries may not cast votes for their own songs.

The Semi-Final. The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s led to a sudden increase in numbers, with many former Eastern Bloc countries queuing up to compete for the first time. This process has continued to this day with more and more countries joining. For this reason, in 2004 the Semi-Final format was introduced by the EBU which turned into two Semi-Finals for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008. Now all countries, except the ‘Big Five’ – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom – together with the host country, must be in a Semi-Final top-10 to qualify for the Final.

In 2015, the Eurovision Song Contest celebrated its 60th anniversary. The BBC hosted a grand anniversary show in London, featuring over a dozen former participants. And to honour the country’s Eurovision Song Contest commitment for over 30 years, the organisers admitted Australia to participate for the first time ever.

Despite the ‘grand old lady’ being of respectable age, her pension is nowhere in sight, as the Eurovision Song Contest is still the most modern live TV entertainment spectacle in the world.

Lys Assia si piazzò al 8° posto nel 1957, indossando un semplice abito bianco sul palco.

Facts & Figures. With a legacy of more than 60 years, which brought hundreds of hours of live television and over 1,500 songs from some 50 countries, the Eurovision Song Contest is a great source of historic facts and mind-blowing figures. On this ever-expanding page, we are sharing the most significant ones with you.

Figures. The Eurovision Song Contest started with just 7 participating countries in 1956. It was the only contest with 2 songs per country. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, more countries wanted to join in the 1990s. In 1993 and 1994, a then-record 25 countries took part. In 1996, a pre-qualification heat was organised to reduce 29 participants to 23, while host country Norway automatically qualified for the contest as 24th country. The challenge was solved in 2004, when a Semi-Final was introduced. Growing interest lead to the introduction of a second Semi-Final in 2008. As a result, a record number of 43 countries took part in 2008 for the first time.

Over 1,500 songs have taken part in the Eurovision Song Contest (not including the 7 songs that didn’t make it in the 1996 pre-qualification round). In 2006, Ireland’s Brian Kennedy delivered the 1,000th entry to the contest, appropriately titled ‘Every Song is a Cry for Love’. If you would listen to all the songs without a break, you would be sitting up for nearly 72 hours.

In 2001, the largest audience ever attended the Eurovision Song Contest. Almost 38,000 people gathered at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium to witness the first-ever Estonian victory.

Ratings of the Eurovision Song Contest have varied greatly over the past decades. In 2016, some 204 million people saw at least one of the 3 shows in whole or in part.

With 7 victories, Ireland is the most successful country at the contest. Sweden won the contest 6 times, while Luxembourg, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom won 5 times.

Poland made the most impressive debut in 1994, when Edyta Gorniak came second with ‘To Nie Ja’, closely followed by Serbia’s victory in 2007. Although Serbia & Montenegro was represented twice before, it was the first time that Serbia took part as an independent country.

Norway could be found at the bottom of the scoreboard as many as eleven times. The unfortunates came last in 1963, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2004 and in the Grand Final of 2012. Nevertheless, they also won 3 times, in 1985, 1995 and 2009.

Salomé from Spain was one of the four winners of the legendary 1969 Eurovision Song Contest..jpg

Salomé from Spain was one of the 4 winners of the legendary 1969 Eurovision Song Contest.

Even though the Eurovision Song Contest took place 64 times, it has 67 winners. In 1969, 4 countries topped the scoreboard with an equal amount of points; the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands and France. Lacking rules to resolve tie situations, the EBU had to declare all 4 contestants as the winner. Thank goodness — tie rules were introduced shortly after.

2020 marked the first time the Contest had to be cancelled in 64 years. Uncertainty created by the spread of COVID-19 throughout Europe – and the restrictions put in place by the governments of the participating broadcasters and Dutch authorities – meant the live event could not continue as planned. The health of artists, staff, fans and visitors from Europe and the world was at the heart of the decision.

Facts. In 2015, the Eurovision Song Contest was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running Annual TV Music Competition.

ABBA is the most successful Eurovision Song Contest winner. The Swedish pop band won the contest in 1974 and has enjoyed phenomenal success ever since, despite officially splitting up in 1983.

The most covered Eurovision Song Contest song is Domenico Mudugno‘s ‘Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu’, also known as ‘Volare’. The song has been covered by famous stars such as Dean Martin, Cliff Richard, David Bowie and many more.

Domenico Mudugno performing Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu, also known as Volare, in 1958..jpg

Domenico Mudugno – “Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu”, also known as “Volare”, 1958.

Johnny Logan won the Eurovision Song Contest 3 times. In 1980 and 1987 he represented Ireland as performer and won both times, with Hold Me Now and What’s Another Year, in 1992 he wrote Linda Martin’s winning entry Why Me?

In 2014, Valentina Monetta took part for San Marino for the third time in a row and… qualified for the Grand Final! She participated in the 2017 contest for the fourth time!

in 2011, Lena, the winner of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest, decided to defend her title on home ground – something only 2 people have done in the history of the contest.

Until 1998, each act was supported by a live orchestra and every country brought its own conductor. Noel Kelehan conducted the orchestra of 5 winners, in 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993 and 1996. Dutch conductor Dolf van der Linde conducting for a record 7 countries; Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. 

The orchestra at the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest..jpg

The orchestra at the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest.

Only 3 women conducted the orchestra at the Eurovision Song Contest. Nurit Hirsch conducted the Israeli entries of 1973 and 1978, Monica Dominique conducted the Swedish 1973 entry and Anita Kerr appeared in front of the orchestra for Switzerland in 1985.

German songwriter and composer Ralph Siegel is a true Eurovision addict. He took part a whopping 21 times. He did so most recently in 2014, granting San Marino their first qualification to the Grand Final. His 22nd participation was in 2017, having written the song for San Marino. He won once, in 1982, with the famous ‘Ein Bißchen Frieden’.

Eurovision Facts. All the funny and weird facts from the Eurovision Song Contest history.

  • Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s biggest music show
  • In 2006 Ireland’s Brian Kennedy, who has sung duets with Van Morrison, became the 1000th act to sing on the Eurovision stage with Every Song Is A Cry For Love. He came tenth
  • After the bearded lady Conchita Wurst won in 2014, a Russian politician said: “The result showed supporters of European integration their European future – a bearded girl”. Conchita’s response: “When an entire nation is scared that a young gay man with a beard who likes dressing up in women’s clothes is so able to sway opinion that he could bring the whole society to the brink, I can only take it as a compliment!”
  • Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden boycotted the 1970 contest as they were not pleased with the result of 1969 and the voting structure
  • When Ukrainian singer Ruslana won Eurovision in 2004, she was rewarded with a seat in Parliament
  • Italy boycotted the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest, saying that it was too old fashioned
  • In 1981 the UK act Bucks Fizz stunned viewers with their Velcro rip-away skirts and within 48 hours, Velcro had sold out across the country
  • Russia was excluded from participating in the Eurovision Song Contest 2022 after they invaded Ukraine
  • Luxembourg has won 5 times. But none of the 5 winners came from Luxembourg. Four were French and one (Vicky Leandros) Greek
  • The first Eurovision that was broadcast in color, was the 1968 contest at the Royal Albert Hall
  • In 1969 there were four winners! They all had the same points, and back then there were no rules for a tie. If there’s a tie today, the country with points from most countries will win
  • In 2009 Georgia decided to send the song “We Don’t Wanna Put In” to the contest in Moscow, but because of a controversy about the lyrics in the song, EBU banned the song from participating, if the lyrics was not changed. Georgia refused to change the lyrics, and withdrew from the contest
  • The youngest ever winner was 13-year-old Sandra Kim from Belgium who won Eurovision in 1986
  • The Portuguese song from 1974 “E Depois Do Adeus” started a revolution in Portugal. The song was played on an independent radio station in Lisbon on 24 April, and was one of two secret signals which alerted the rebel captains and soldiers to begin the Carnation Revolution against the Estado Novo regime
  • In 1974 the French President, Georges Pompidou, died during Eurovision week. The French broadcaster decided to withdraw from the contest. The funeral was held the day of the contest
  • In the years 1966 – 1972 and 1978 – 1998 the rules stated that each country had to sing in one of their national languages. Single words or phrases in other languages were allowed
  • Russia withdrew from Eurovision 2017 in Kyiv because the Russian artist Yulia Samoylova was banned from entering Ukraine
  • Three of the songs sent to Eurovision have been in made up languages. Two of these entries have come from Belgium: Sanomi (2003) and O Julissi (2008); and one from the Netherlands: Amambanda (2006)
  • Israel is the only winning country that didn’t participate the following year – They won in 1979 but didn’t participate in 1980 due to Israeli Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron
  • In the first ever Eurovision Song Contest (1956), Luxembourg asked Switzerland to vote on its behalf. And the winner was: Switzerland!
  • In 1978 Jordan showed some flowers instead of the Israeli entry on their screening of the show. When Israel went on to win they pretended it was Belgium
  • The previous year’s winner hosts Eurovision but it’s so expensive that nations have pleaded poverty to get out of it. The countries who have opted out include the Netherlands, France, Monaco, and Luxembourg and the job went to the UK four times
  • Riverdance was first performed during the interval act of Eurovision Song Contest 1994. One of the most popular interval acts in the history of the contest
  • Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast across five continents
  • From 1956 to 1998 all the songs were accompanied by a live orchestra. From 1999 and onwards the orchestra was dropped, so the entries could use recorded backing track during their performances
  • Austria boycotted the 1969-contest in Madrid because Spain at that time was ruled by Francisco Franco
  • All Eurovision songs must not be longer than three minutes
  • Titles of songs have included Boom Bang-a-bang (UK, 1969), A-Ba-Ni-Ba (Israel, 1978), Bana Bana (Turkey, 1989) and Bourn Badaboru (Monaco, 1967)
  • The youngest ever main artist was 11-year-old Nathalie Pâque from Belgium. She represented France in Eurovision 1989 with the song “J’ai Volé La Vie”. The oldest was 95-year-old Emil Ramsauer from the Swiss 2013-band “Takasa”
  • Finland had to wait forty-four years since their debut in 1961 to achieve their first victory. They had only received three 12 points in the history of the contest up to the 2006 contest, and none since 1977
  • There have been five barefoot winners in Eurovision history: Sandie Shaw (1967), Sertab Erener (2003), Dima Bilan (2008), Loreen (2012) and Emmelie De Forest (2013)
  • Serbia participated the first time as an independent country in 2007 and won the contest the same year
  • The highest note ever sung in Eurovision was from the 2021 contest, where Israel’s Eden Alene reached the B6 whistle note
  • The largest number of nations to take part was 43 in 2008, 2011 and 201
  • It is not allowed to have more than six people on stage (including backup singers and dancers)
  • Portugal had to go through 49 contests to achieve their first victory in 2017
  • Morocco has participated in Eurovision Song Contest. But only once. It was in 1980 and they ended second-last. Morocco only received points from Italy
  • The Eurovision-friendly nation Australia has broadcast Eurovision Song Contest every year since 1983
  • Ireland and Sweden holds the record of most victories in Eurovision Song Contest: Seven victories each!
  • Belarus was expelled from Eurovision 2021. The submitted song had lyrics with political undertones mocking the Belarusian pro-democracy movement
  • Eurovision Song Contest always begins with the fanfare “Prélude du Te Deum” composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
  • The longest running losers are the Cypriots, having never had a victory
  • Romania was expelled from Eurovision 2016 due to unpaid debt to EBU
  • The 60th Eurovision Song Contest in 2015 had a record number of countries in the Grand Final: 27
  • In 1956, every participating country could enter with two songs. The Netherlands was the first country to sing a song in Eurovision with “De vogels van Holland”
  • In 2016 Ukraine won the Grand Final with the song “1944”, but only came second in their semi-final. Australia won the semi-final, but came 2nd in the Grand Final
  • The scores of the voting from the 1956-contest have never been made public, leaving room for lots of speculation. Attempts to reconstruct the voting by interviewing jury members over the following five decades did not lead to any reliable outcome
  • Live animals are banned from stage at Eurovision
  • Russia’s entry “A Million Voices” from 2015 became the first non-winning Eurovision song to score over 300 points
  • Portugal holds the record of most points in a Grand Final. In 2017 Salvador Sobral won with record breaking 758 points with the song “Amar Pelos Dois”
  • The first scandal in Eurovision history occurred in 1957 where the Danish singers Birthe Wilke and Gustav Winckler kissed for 11 seconds in the end of the song. Generating a furious reaction
  • Eurovision Song Contest 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first (and only) time in 64 years that Eurovision was cancelled
  • The longest song in Eurovision Song Contest is Italy’s “Corde Della Mia Chitarra” from 1957: 5 minutes and 9 seconds. After the contest, the rules were tightened so songs couldn’t be longer than 3.5 minutes initially and later 3 minutes
  • In 2008 Russia won the Grand Final with the song “Believe”, but only came third in their semi-final
  • In 2004 there were 37 countries giving points, resulting in a very long voting procedure. The voting time was cut in 2006 where each spokesperson started to just announce the top three votes
  • Spain’s cleverly titled, La La La from 1968 contained no fewer than 138 la’s
  • In 2015 Finland’s song “Aina Mun Pitää” only runs for 1 minute and 27 seconds. The shortest song in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest
  • Norway won the contest in 1995 with the song “Nocturne”. It contained only 24 words accompanied by long violin solos
  • In 2011 Azerbaijan won the Grand Final with the song “Running Scared”, but only came second in their semi-final. Greece won the semi-final, but came 7th in the Grand Final
  • Eurovision 2021 took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two countries were not able to perform live: Australia due to travel restrictions and Iceland due to a positive test among the performers
  • Eurovision Song Contest is normally held every year in May. The earliest Eurovision date was in 1957, on 3rd March and the latest was in 1999 and 2010 when it was held on 29th May
  • Eurovision Semi-finals were introduced in 2004
  • The most covered Eurovision Song Contest song is Domenico Mudugno’s “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” from 1958, also known as Volare. The song has been covered by famous stars such as Dean Martin, Cliff Richard, David Bowie and many more
  • 95 percent of the Danish viewing public saw the 2001 contest on TV – the highest percentage in Europe
  • Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest running recurring television broadcasts in the world
  • Among the contestants who have had successful careers are ABBA (1974), Céline Dion, Cliff Richard and Julio Iglesias. Dion won for Switzerland in 1988 with the song Ne partez pas sans moi
  • United Kingdom gave zero points to ABBA in 1974

Delving into the Eurovision archives: Part One, Part Two.

The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest running television programmes in the world. Unsurprisingly, a considerable amount of material has been collected over the years. In the first of a new series we take a trip down memory lane and delve into the Eurovision archives from yesteryear.

When Marcel Bezençon came up with the idea of the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1950s it is unlikely that he envisioned that it would still be going strong seven decades later. In those early days of television broadcasting nobody could predict the success of the competition but fortunately some of the documents relating to that time have survived. Today we look at five pieces from the Eurovision archive. 

Music sheet (1965). 18 countries participated in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, a record at that time. It was the year that Ireland made its debut in the contest. Ireland would later go on to become the reigning Eurovision champion with 7 victories. 1965 represents a milestone moment in the Eurovision Song Contest since it is the first time that a pop song won the contest. The winning entry for Luxembourg, ‘Poupée de cire, poupée de son’ was written by French Serge Gainbourg and was performed by France Gall. The song went on to become an international hit and had a huge impact on the type of songs that would be entered into the Eurovision Song Contest over the following years. The music sheet for the song is shown in the header of this story.

Programme booklet (1973). After hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in 1962 and 1966, Luxembourg hosted the competition again in 1973. Israel made its debut this year and was allowed to do so because the country was already a member of the European Broadcasting Union. With the Israelis participating, the security control was unusually tight and special security measures were put in place for the Israeli delegation. The programme booklet was a simple publication which included a brief welcome message and basic information about each entry (song title, writers and performer). Whoever was using this booklet at the time was paying close attention to the competition as the exact timings of each entry have been scribbled inside. 

Commemorative book (1980). The 1980 Eurovision Song Contest almost did not happen. Israel won the previous year on home ground and declined the opportunity to host the competition for the second year in succession. The Netherlands stepped in and staged the contest in The Hague, the host city of the 1976 contest. The date of the show clashed with Israel’s Day of Remembrance and so the reigning Eurovision champions did not participate. Dutch broadcaster NOS produced a special commorative book marking the 25th edition of the competition. It also doubled up as the programme booklet and delegation guide for that year. The publication includes rehearsal schedules, the rules of the 1980 competition and even useful telephone numbers for those visiting The Hague. 

Press release (1981). Ireland’s capital Dublin hosted the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest after Johnny Logan won the contest in the preceding year with What’s Another Year. In 1981, the total amount of participating countries was 20, equalling the record set three years earlier in Paris. Cyprus made its Eurovision debut and 1981 was also the first year viewers in Egypt could follow the contest live on television. The press release, issued by the EBU in March 1981, explained how Host Broadcaster RTE would use satellite technology to broadcast the contest. According to the document, OTS (Orbital Test Satellite) “could be used to route Eurovision transmissions, such as the Song Contest, international telephony traffic and data for various business applications between European countries.”

Stage design bluprints (1987). Belgium had the honour of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in the country’s history in 1987. The stage design marked a departure from the more static sets used in previous years as laser and lighting techniques gave a different look and feel to the show. As you can see from the blueprints, the actual performance area for the artists was relatively small compared to today, just a few metres in floor space. At the end of the voting sequence Ireland’s Johnny Logan made history when he became the first, and to date only singer, to win the Eurovision Song Contest twice.

These materials are a reminder of simpler times in the organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest and next week we will be bringing you more from the Eurovision archive!

In this second part of our series on the Eurovision archives, we go all the way back to 1957, the year in which the second edition of the Eurovision Song Contest was held. Letters, entry tickets and even newspaper articles were found in the archives. Let’s take another trip down memory lane!

In the first part of our archives series we examined two programme booklets, music sheets, a press release and stage blueprints. Today we return to the archives and go all the way back to the start of the contest. 

Letter to the European Broadcasting Union (1957). The second edition of the Eurovision Contest was hosted in Frankfurt Am Main, on 3 March 1957. Switzerland declined to host the contest for the second time, and that is why all participants travelled to Germany for the contest. This is a letter from the Nederlandse Televisie Stichting, or Dutch Television Foundation, to the European Broadcasting Union following the first Dutch victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. They sent this letter, including a record of the winning song ‘Net als toen’ sung by Dutch singer Corry Brokken, for the archives. Corry also represented her country in Lugano the year before. Corry went on to present the contest in 1976 and delivered the Dutch votes at the 1997 contest. She died in 2016 at the age of 83.

Newspaper article (1967). On Monday 10 April, Austrian newspaper Kurier published the story: ‘Das beste Lied gewann’, or in English: ‘The best song won’. While nowadays the contest is usually hosted in May, in 1967 the show was held in April. The article tells the story of the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest in which Sandie Shaw from the United Kingdom won with the song ‘Puppet on a string’. Germany finished eighth which was a surprise since it was quite a popular song in the country at that time. Being an Austrian newspaper, the article also talks about the Austrian participant Peter Horton, who came 14th. Unsurprisingly the view of Kurier was that it deserved to end up higher than it did! 

Photographs from the live show (1984). Luxembourg hosted the contest for the fourth time after Corinne Hermès’ victory the year before.  Herrey’s, a trio of brothers from Sweden, won the contest in 1984 with their song ‘Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley’. The images were taken after they were announced as winners and as you can see, the group look excited, performing handstands with flowers in their hands. The stage is a rather small compared to the ones of today, but the artists only had a couple of square meters of floor space. The Eurovision Song Contest was a simpler show back then, almost unrecognisable from the mega event that is has become today.

Artist’s impression of the stage design (1991). The 36th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest was held on 4 May 1991 in Rome. The original plan was to host the show in Sanremo but host broadcaster RAI moved it to Rome at a very late stage due to ongoing instability in the Balkan region. Carola from Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ‘Fångad av en stormvind’ (Captured by a Storm Wind). This stage design shows a very theatrical stage, including elements of ancient Rome. In the end the actual stage wasn’t as theatrical as the image shows, but the main ancient elements stayed!

Ticket to the Semi-Final rehearsal (2005). And finally, we go back to 2005, when the Eurovision Song Contest was hosted in Kyiv, Ukraine. Ruslana won in Turkey in 2004 and brought the contest home to Ukraine the year after. It was the 50th edition of the contest where Helena Paparizou from Greece won with ‘My Number One’. The contest was held at the Sport Palace in Kyiv and here you see an entry ticket to the rehearsal for the Semi-Final on May 19th, where 25 artists performed. The time in green, 15:00, was the time when the rehearsal took place. In 2008 two Semi-Finals were introduced. 

Many memories have been made over the years and it’s interesting to see how much the Eurovision Song Contest has changed. From entry tickets to stage design or even internal processes, they all form part of the Eurovision story.