The early 1990s were a time of massive change in Europe. After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, communism collapsed across the continent. These changes were reflected in the Eurovision Song Contest as newly sovereign nations took to the stage. In part six of our Milestone Moments series look back to the 1993 and 1994 contests which changed the face of the Eurovision Song Contest forever.
In 1993, in order to accommodate the growing number of countries eager to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, a pre-selection took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia ahead of the contest. Three countries made their respective debuts; Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. A relegation system was also introduced meaning that the bottom seven countries would miss out on a place in the contest the following year. However since Italy and Luxembourg withdrew only the bottom five countries missed the 1994 competition.
The 1993 Eurovision Song Contest, held in Millstreet, a small town in South West Ireland, was an ambitious production for national broadcaster RTE. It was also a poignant competition for the competing countries as at the time of the 1993 contest, the war in the Balkans was raging. At a press conference, the Head of Delegation for Bosnia Herzegovina, Ismeta Dervoz, explained the significance of the Eurovision Song Contest for her country:
"We had many problems to come here [to Eurovision]. We go out from the surrendered city, running across the runway in the middle of the night, through grenades, through snipers. We risked our lives to be here to show the whole of the world that we are just normal, peaceful people in Bosnia Herzegovina and that we just want to live in peace and to do our jobs".
In 1994 seven countries joined the Eurovision Song Contest in what was the biggest single expansion in participants since the contest began in 1956. Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia all competed in the 39th Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin.
Ireland went on to win the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest with 226 points, a record at the time, and set a new record by becoming the only country to win the contest three times in a row. The interval act in 1994 was the then unknown Riverdance, an act which combined traditional Irish folk music with modern dance. Riverdance became a global phenomenon, with the exception of participating artists, it is arguably the biggest money-spinner ever created by Eurovision.
The changes that took place in the Eurovision Song Contest between 1993 and 1994 paved the way for further developments in the format of the show. In 2004, to accommodate further expansion, a semi-final was introduced and in 2008 this was extended to two semi-finals. The Eurovision Song Contest has nearly doubled in size from 23 participating countries in 1992 to 42 in 2016, a testament to the enduring popularity and appeal of Europe's favourite TV show.