Dana at the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands
Ireland's Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970 Photo: Kippa

Happy 50th Anniversary, Eurovision 1970!

The Eurovision Song Contest 1969 resulted in a tie with 4 winners which raised an unprecedented question: who would host the following edition? A drawing of lots decided that Dutch broadcaster NTS would organize the Eurovision Song Contest 1970, which was held in Amsterdam 50 years ago.

There were plenty of host countries to choose from as a result of the 4-way tie in the Eurovision Song Contest 1969: Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France. There didn’t seem to be much agreement on which of the 4 countries should host the competition in 1970. Spain and the United Kingdom were determined to be out of the running as they had hosted the previous 2 editions, so the job was up to either France or the Netherlands.

A draw took place under the auspices of the EBU in a meeting where the creator of the Eurovision Song Contest, Marcel Bezençon, drew the ballot that corresponded to NTS, the Dutch broadcaster. NTS then accepted the hosting duties, taking the 15th edition of the Contest to Amsterdam:

An indefinite future

1970 was a year when the survival of the Eurovision Song Contest was at risk. There were cancellation rumours after the tie in Madrid, as some of the participating broadcasters expressed dissatisfaction with the voting system and, eventually, decided to withdraw. Sweden, Finland, Norway and Portugal joined Austria and Denmark, which had already been absent from Eurovision in 1969.

Eurovision Song Contest logo 1970EBU

Only 12 delegations made the trip to the Dutch capital due to what was referred to as 'the voting scandal' of the year before. It was the lowest number of participants in more than a decade. Despite not participating in Eurovision, Portugal still hosted a national selection, which was won by Sérgio Borges.

The Netherlands host again!

The Netherlands had already hosted the Eurovision Song Contest once before, in Hilversum in 1958, and would go on to do so again in 1976 and 1980, both of the latter in The Hague. The Contest held in 1970 marks the only occasion on which it took place in Amsterdam. The chosen venue was the RAI Congrescentrum, and the date was Saturday 21 March.

Introducing the introductions

The Eurovision Song Contest 1970 was the first to feature introductory films for each entry. The so-called postcards made their first appearance in Amsterdam and are still part of the production in the current format of the show.

Amsterdam's opening sequence included images of the city, followed by the shortest introduction ever by any presenter in the history of the Eurovision. The host, Willy Dobbe, barely spent 25 seconds in the introduction comments, but still managed to welcome the audience in 3 languages: English, French and Dutch.

The postcards then followed, introducing each entry’s title and the singers' names in videos that featured the artists in their own country. There were some exceptions, as Paris was the location for, not only the French entry but also those of Switzerland, Luxembourg and Monaco.

Knock knock, who's in?

Some of the singers who competed on the stage in 1970 were already established performers, like David Alexandre Winter who represented Luxembourg or Gianni Morandi, one of the most popular entertainers in Italy.

But none was as successful at the time as the young artist representing the United Kingdom. The BBC sent Mary Hopkin, fresh from scoring a massive hit with Those Were The Days. After placing second in the contest she also achieved success with her Eurovision entry, Knock Knock, Who's There?, despite her not liking the song.

Arrival at Schiphol: Henri Des of Switzerland, UK's Mary Hopkin, Guy Bonnet from France and Germany's Katja Ebstein.Nationaal Archief

The Contest also featured an appearance of the then internationally unknown Julio Iglesias singing for Spain. As hinted in his postcard, Julio had been a professional football player for Real Madrid, but a serious injury after a car accident ended his career. It was during recovery that he discovered his talents for music and soon after, he was chosen to represent Spain in Eurovision with his song Gwendolyne, which placed 4th in Amsterdam.

Eric Koch / Nationaal Archief

While Mary Hopkin's music career didn't last long after the Contest, Julio Iglesias went on to become one of the top-selling singers of all time. An achievement mirrored by his son, Enrique.

Katja Ebstein placed 3rd with Wunder Gibt Es Immer Wieder, which was a record for Germany at the time. She was sent again in 1971 and again she placed 3rd with the song Dieser Welt. But she did one better in 1980 when she placed 2nd with Theater. Katja's is one of the most successful streaks for an artist that hasn't actually won the Eurovision Song Contest.

Irish eyes were smiling

The United Kingdom was the big favourite to win, mainly due to Mary Hopkin's popularity, but among the established artists were a couple of unknown performers, and one of them managed to win the competition. Dana from Ireland was still a schoolgirl, although she had already tried to go to Eurovision the year before, despite her young age.

But it was in 1970 with the song All Kinds of Everything written by Derry Lindsay and Jackie Smith, that Dana went to the Eurovision Song Contest and won it, receiving the prize from only one of the 4 winners in 1969, the Dutch Lenny Kuhr.

Lenny Kuhr awarding DanaEric Koch / Nationaal Archief

Dana scored a major international hit with her song and launched a successful career. In the 1990s, she became a politician, running for the Irish presidential election in 1997 and 2011, and served as Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004.

Tie-break

To ensure that a similar incident to the one in 1969 did not happen again, a tie rule was created. The rule stated that if 2 or more songs gained the same number of points, each song had to be performed once more. After these performances, all the juries with the exception of the countries that had tied, had to select their favourite song. This had to be done by the showing of hands. If entries still were to tie, both of them would share the first position.

But Ireland won comfortably even with the competition from the United Kingdom. Luxembourg, on the other hand, failed to score, making it the only time to do so in its history of participating.

Dana 1970 winnerEric Koch / Nationaal Archief

Facts & figures

In 1970, it wasn't only the participating countries that broadcast the show. Austria, Greece or Portugal did it as well, while Brazil, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Chile broadcast the Contest live via satellite.

Hearts of Soul on stage in AmsterdamNOS

The set design by Roland de Groot was a very interesting one, consisting of big baubles and curved lines hanging from the ceiling and could be moved in several different directions. Alongside the lighting effects, it gave each entry their very own setting. It also gave some problems during one of the dress rehearsals, when it collapsed, but fortunately, it stayed in place during the live show.

That same year Ireland scored the first of their legendary 7 victories to date; the following were in 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996.

The success of the winning song, All Kinds Of Everything, and the promise of a further revision of the voting system, helped to restore the faith in the format and Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden all returned the following year.

After the Irish victory, the Eurovision Song Contest 1971 was held in Dublin, where Denmark declined the invitation to participate and Malta made their debut. But that's another story entirely.

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