The 1998 Eurovision Song Contest from Birmingham culminated in one of the most thrilling voting sequences for years and reminded us that Europe is a more open-minded place than we might have thought.
Taboo breaking year
25 countries competed in the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. All countries that were relegated in 1997 Eurovision Song Contest returned and FYR Macedonia entered the contest for the first time. Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Denmark, Russia and Iceland were relegated in 1998 as their 5-year-average points were lower than those of the other countries.
Italian broadcaster RAI decided to withdraw from the contest indefinitely. Televoting took place in the majority of participating countries for the first time. Only countries that did not have a fully functional telephone system were still allowed to vote through the national juries. There was a problem with the Spanish televote as Spanish voters had awarded 12 points to Germany, but while announcing the points, the 12 points went to Israel! However, the mistake was quickly unearthed after the show and you have the correct rankings and points on our scoreboard here.
It was a taboo-breaking year for the contest which saw the performances of Israeli transsexual Dana International, whereas Germany brought balding singer, Guido Horn to the contest. Dana sang the fitting Diva while Horn climbed all over the stage during his crazy performance.
A diva is born
The trophy of the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest went to the Dana International from Israel with her winning song Diva. To date she remains the first and only openly transgendered person to have won the Eurovision Song Contest. During the voting process, it quickly became clear that either Israel, the United Kingdom or Malta were going to win, but the FYR Macedonian vote did not give a single point to Malta's Chiara, giving the victory to Israel. The United Kingdom came in second for a record 15th time, and the Netherlands obtained their best result since 1975 - finishing in fourth place.
Facts and figures
- A watermark showing which country was performing appeared on-screen during the performances for the first time. This innovation is still in place today.
- Presenter Terry Wogan directly addressed the fans of the contest in the audience, the first time that this had happened.
- Imaani, the UK's representative, was the first ever black singer to represent the country.