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.
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.
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.
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.
Only 3 women conducted the orchestra at the Eurovision Song Contest. Nurit Nirsch 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.