Today, 26 countries will take part in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev. The contest, watched live by millions across the world, is the longest-running annual TV music competition and has been described as the ‘Olympics of song’. Here are 10 facts about Eurovision in numbers…
62 – NUMBER OF EUROVISION CONTESTS
Eurovision was launched in 1956, with 52 countries from four continents having participated at least once. Yes, four continents – despite the name, countries from Africa, Asia and Oceania have also participated in the contest; with Morocco entering in 1980, and Australia and Israel currently taking part.
The only countries from Europe to have never taken part in the contest are Liechtenstein and Vatican City (although divine intervention might be needed for them to win!)
42 – COUNTRIES PARTICIPATING THIS YEAR
Countries from all over Europe are taking part in this year’s contest, but only 26 of them have made it through to tonight’s grand final. Russia had also been due to participate, but a continuing territorial dispute over the Crimea peninsula resulted in them withdrawing.
5 – THE BIG FIVE
Since 2000, some countries have automatically qualified to the Eurovision final, as they contribute the most money to the European Broadcasting Union (the organisers of the event). France, the UK, Germany, Spain and Italy (since 2010) do not participate in the semi-finals as a result, but are able to vote on acts in one of the two that take place. Turkey cited the Big Five as one of the reasons why they quit the contest in 2013 – they have not returned since.
204 MILLION – PEOPLE WHO WATCHED EUROVISION 2016
Since starting over 60 years ago, Eurovision is now broadcast across the world from Seattle to Sydney to Shanghai. Last year’s viewership was a new record – beating 2015 by over five million.
1,479 – SONGS SUNG AT EUROVISION
Once tonight’s final is finished, almost 1,500 songs would have been sung at Eurovision for the chance to win. Listening to all of the songs back to back would take almost 3 days!
7 – TIMES IRELAND HAS WON THE EUROVISION
Surprisingly, based on their poor performance in recent years, Ireland has won Eurovision the most; having also won it THREE years in a row – a feat that has never since been matched. Sweden has won six times in the past, whilst the UK, France and Luxembourg (yes, Luxembourg!) are joint third with five victories under their belts.
1969 – THE YEAR OF FOUR WINNERS
At the 14th contest, a tie-break occurred for the first time; four countries tied for first place – the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and France. There was no rule to determine who would win in such a scenario, so all four were declared the winners! New rules have since been put in place to prevent such a situation happening again.
1997 – THE LAST YEAR BRITAIN WON
It has been 20 years since the UK last won the contest with ‘Love Shine a Light’ by Katrina and the Waves. Britain has come close to winning since, with a 2nd place the following year (1998), third place in 2002 and fifth in 2009. However, the UK’s reputation for poor performance in the contest began in 2003…
2003 – ROYAUME-UNI, NIL POINTS!
Hosted by Latvia, 2003 saw the UK not only come last for the first time but also fail to score a single point, with ‘Cry Baby’ by Jemini. Though we have never suffered the humiliation of scoring zero since, Britain came last again in 2008 and 2010. However, this is nothing compared to Norway, who have come last a staggering ELEVEN times!
534 – THE LARGEST WIN AT EUROVISION
Last year saw the biggest win at Eurovision, when Ukraine’s ‘1944’ won with 534 points. However, this was due to a change in the voting system – which saw separate points awarded for jurors and televoting. Despite the large number of points awarded, Ukraine only narrowly beat runners-up Australia by only 23 points.
Before the voting changed, the most points awarded to the winner was Norway’s ‘Fairytale’, scoring 387 and beating Iceland by almost 170 points!
You can catch the Eurovision Song Contest final tonight from 8pm on BBC One or BBC Radio 2.