What you need to know about the Eurovision Song Contest

Thanks to a highly anticipated performance by Justin Timberlake and the entry of Australia into the competition, the Eurovision Song Contest is enjoying global attention. So what’s the story of this epic event that is watched by over 200 million people worldwide? Find out on today’s blog!



The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest running television shows in the world and celebrated its 61st anniversary this year. The first show aired on 24th May 1956 and since then it has embedded itself in European tradition and is without doubt one of Europe’s most treasured TV shows and a guilty pleasure of many. With six decades of history, well over 1000 songs have been performed on the show by the likes of ABBA, Céline Dion, Cliff Richard and Julio Iglesias. But where did it all begin?

It was started by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) following a meeting in Monaco in 1955, when Marcel Bezençon, a Frenchman working for the EBU, came up with the idea of an international song contest based on the Italian Festival di Sanremo. It was initially conceived as a technological experiment in live television in the days before satellite TV, YouTube and Netflix but was such a huge success that it continued to air annually in Europe, as well as Australia, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States in more recent years. It continues to grow every year and if you’re a Eurovision fan then you may have noticed that Australia entered the contest (and performed very well) in the 2015 and 2016 shows, and it is anticipated that other non-EU countries may enter in the future, making it a truly global contest.


The format

In the early years of the competition, as only a small number of countries participated, all acts performed on the big night and then a televote was opened, allowing viewers to vote for their favourite act, with the exception of their own country. The winner of the public vote was crowned champion and the prize was the privilege of hosting the contest the following year. However, as the competition has grown with more countries entering acts (43 countries in total), there are now several knock-out rounds and semi-finals leading up to the main event, and currently only 26 acts perform on the night, although all 43 participating countries can vote for their favorite.

Another change to the format in recent years has been the use of national juries, who professionally judge the acts, with their votes being added to the public vote. These panels were brought in to try to negate political voting, whereby neighboring countries voted for one another, as this was beginning to ruin the results of the show. In a twist to the 2016 contest, the votes of the national juries were presented first by representatives from each participating country, with the televoting points then being added and announced by the show hosts. This new system added a lot more excitement to the results show, culminating in the unexpected triumph of Ukraine with the song “1944” performed by Jamala!


Notable winners

The wonderful thing about Eurovision is the diversity and the winning country each year is no exception – it is rare for the same country to win two years running. That said, there has been the notable exception of Ireland, who won in 1992, 1993 and 1994, as well as 1996!

Individual notable winners include ABBA, who won with “Waterloo” in 1974 for Sweden; Céline Dion, who won in 1988 for Switzerland; Lulu and Bucks Fizz, who won for the UK in 1969 and 1981, respectively; and Conchita Wurst, who won in 2014 for Austria with “Rise Like a Phoenix”.


Why watch it

While some of the entries are…ermm…unique, the production is absolutely flawless, with spectacular lighting, special effects and high-energy performances that will keep you enthralled! Even if some of the songs aren’t to your taste, it is a highly entertaining show, with diverse music that often reflects the mood of Europe and the varying cultures of the European countries, and there is no doubt that every year the host country puts an enormous effort into making every performance memorable. So, if you haven’t seen Eurovision before, be sure to tune in next year!


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