By Guangyi Zhang
Have you ever heard of the Eurovision Song Contest? If not, don't worry. This article will tell you all about it. Eurovision is a song contest started in Switzerland in 1956. Back then, only seven countries took part, but now the number has increased six times. This year, forty-one countries will take part, according to the Official Eurovision Website. But let's flash back to the start of the contest and explore the history of the contest!
The First Contest
The first Eurovision ever took place in Lugano, Switzerland on May 24th, 1956. A total of seven countries, which are the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Italy, took part, and they sent two songs each. Each of the participating countries sent two juries to Lugano to vote for the songs secretly. The winner was Lys Assia from Switzerland. She sang both Swiss entries but won with Refrain. Translated, the title means Chorus. Since the voting was never made public, all thirteen other entries were, and still are, listed as joint second.
The Early Years
For more than two decades, Eurovision remained a mostly western-Europe kind of thing. None of the Eastern Bloc countries (Poland, Romania, Soviet Union etc.) took part. The voting system also changed a lot. From 1957 to 1961, national juries gave out ten total votes. They can choose to give how many of the ten votes they want to each contestant. In 1962, juries give 3 points to their favorite song, 2 points to their second favorite song, and 1 point to their third favorite song. This system also resulted in the first contestants scoring no points (more commonly known as nul points). From 1963 to 1966, juries gave 5 points to their favorite song, 4 points to their second favorite, and so on. From 1967 to 1970, the voting system went back to the one used from 1957 to 1961. From 1971 to 1973, juries give points to every country, but they give a certain number of points to each country. And the number of points given out to a country must be between 2 and 10. The 1974 contest went back to the one used from 1957 to 1961, and the one used from 1967 to 1970.
Debuts, Debuts, and More Debuts
More countries joined Eurovision in the 1980s and 1990s. A new voting system was also introduced in 1975. Juries give 12 points to their favorite song, 10 points to their second favorite song, 8 points to their third favorite song, 7 points to their fourth favorite song, 6 points to their fifth favorite song, and so on. That voting system is still used today. The 90s were also the golden age for Ireland. Ireland had four wins, two runners-up and a total of seven top ten placements. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet nations started joining. By 2001, ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than 25 countries have taken part or once took part in Eurovision. Three non-European countries; Morocco, Israel, and Australia, have debuted. Israel and Australia are still taking part to this day, but Morocco withdrew after their first and only participation in 1980. And, as the contest grew bigger. The point tracker for voting switched from a real life scoreboard to a big screen, which allowed juries to vote without having to travel to the host city of the contest.
Two, or Even Three Shows
In 2004, ten countries debuted or returned to Eurovision, boosting the number of participants to 36 from 26 in 2003. It was then decided that Eurovision should split into two contests. A semifinal and a final. The countries that placed top 10 in the previous year, plus the ‘Big 4’, which are Spain, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. The top ten in the semifinal would qualify to the final. This reduced the number of participants from 36 to 24. But more countries started joining. In 2007, the semifinal had a massive 28 contestants taking part, still with just 10 qualifiers. This was especially unfair for countries that would have qualified if the number of qualifiers was raised from ten to half the number of participants in the semifinal. Portugal finished 11th in the 2007 semifinal and was only 3 points behind 10th place Moldova. So, in 2008, a second semifinal was introduced. The top ten from semifinal 1, the top ten from semifinal 2, the ‘Big 4’, and the host country (the winner of the previous contest one year ago) would take part in the final. In 2011, Italy returned to the contest, their first participation since 1997. It was decided that Italy join the United Kingdom, Spain, France, and Germany to form the ‘Big 5’, instead of the Big 4. And, with this many countries participating, voting usually takes a while. In 2004, every country announced all their votes, which took forever. So, from 2005 onwards, only the 8 points, 10 points, and 12 points were announced. The rest of the points were shown on the big screen.
These days, Eurovision has become a song contest for every European to enjoy. Although some countries have stopped taking part, the number of entries that were performed in 2011 (the year with the most participants) was just two less than the number of entries in the first four contests in Eurovision history put together! And some countries are still on their way to debuting!
Eurovision Song Contest. https://www.britannica.com/art/Eurovision-Song-Contest
Eurovision voting system. https://eurovision.tv/about/voting
Facts and Figures. https://eurovision.tv/about/facts-and-figures
Eurovision in a nutshell. https://eurovision.tv/history/in-a-nutshell