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A history of Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest

31 May 2024 at 15:45 CEST
Switzerland wins the 68th Eurovision Song Contest with the song The Code by Nemo Corinne Cumming / EBU
It's the country where it all started, and it's where we're all headed to in 2025 – we look back over Switzerland's Eurovision Song Contest history.

Thanks to Nemo notching up a third win for their country on 11 May in Malmö, Switzerland will now host the Eurovision Song Contest in 2025. The Code was awarded Eurovision victory with an impressive 591 points. It's a feat that arrives 36 years after Switzerland's previous win in 1988, which itself came 32 years after the first triumph in 1956. 

With the Eurovision Song Contest currently book-ended by Swiss wins, there's no better time than now to explore Switzerland's rich Eurovision history. From Dion to DJ Bobo, and from Gjon's Tears to Djambo!

Bonjour, Bonjour

Back when it all began, 68 years ago, Switzerland was the country doing the hosting, the presenting, and indeed the winning!

The very first Eurovision Song Contest was held on Thursday 24 May in 1956 at the Teatro Kursaal in Lugano, Switzerland. Presenting duties were entrusted to Swiss TV host Lohengrin Filipello, while the inaugural winner was Switzerland's own Lys Assia, with her song Refrain.

The idea of a Europe-wide song contest had initially been suggested by the Italian broadcaster Rai. But it was Marcel Bezençon of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR) who became the driving force behind the conception of the Contest, and turning it into a reality. 

A former journalist, Bezençon was also director of the European Broadcasting Union at the time. And since 2002, the Marcel Bezençon Awards have been handed out annually, recognising exceptional artistic and creative standouts from the participating Eurovision entries each year.

Marcel Bezençon, the founder of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Time To Shine

Arguably Switzerland's most famous flex at the Eurovision Song Contest is the part it played in launching the international career of one of the most successful artists in the history of recorded music. 

In February 1988, at the Swiss national final at the Théâtre de Beausobre in Morges, Céline Dion was selected to represent Switzerland at the 33rd Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin. Her song Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi would give Switzerland its second win at the Contest, earning 137 points on the night.

The result remains one of the most tense in the history of the Contest, with Céline Dion's win only becoming apparent once the very last 'douze points' had been announced, and with Swiss victory coming to pass by only one point standing between first place and second place (United Kingdom).

To date, Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi is the last Eurovision Song Contest winner to have been performed in French. Céline, meanwhile, went on to become one of the biggest-selling artists of all time and one of the highest-grossing touring performers in history. 

Era Stupendo

Throughout the decades at the Contest, Switzerland has also been responsible for bestowing onto the world yet another all-time Eurovision queen – Lys Assia!

Lys famously provided the Eurovision Song Contest with its very first winner in 1956, via the song Refrain. It's hard to give up a good thing, and so Lys returned to the Contest to represent Switzerland the following year in 1957, and again in 1958.

1958 runner-up Giorgio

On her third (and final) Eurovision outing, Lys came very close to matching her 1956 victory, when her song Giorgio finished in second place. Just three points separated it and France's winner Dors Mon Amour. And perhaps even more impressively with hindsight, Giorgio managed to finish one place higher than what went on to become one of the most iconic songs in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest – Italy's Nel Blu, Dipinto Di Blu!

Being the inaugural winner, Lys was invited back to make guest appearances at many Eurovision Song Contests in later years. The beloved singer and actress passed away on 24 March 2018. She was 94 years old. 

Celebrate

Switzerland has been one of the more enthusiastic countries throughout the decades at Eurovision, and has never missed a Contest through choice. In fact, up until 1995 it was the only country besides Germany to have participated in every single Contest.

Of the 68 Eurovision Song Contests to date, Switzerland has not taken part in just 4. And in those 4 instances, it was only due to the new relegation system put in place in 1994, which meant that results too low down on the final scoreboard would mean that a country could not participate the following year. As a result, Switzerland missed out on competing in 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2003. 

Switzerland has a record of high-placements to be proud of. Of the 53 Eurovision Song Contest Grand Finals it has competed in, the country has finished inside the Top 10 on 29 occasions. It has finished inside the Top 5 an admirable 18 times.

In the past 5 Contests alone, Switzerland has been awarded over 1,500 points at the Grand Finals.

Boys Do Cry

Very few countries have managed to avoid a streak of bad luck at the Eurovision Song Contest, but Switzerland was lumped with a particularly long one after the arrival of the Semi-Finals at the start of the century.

In the 12 Contests that took place between 2007 and 2018, Switzerland only managed to qualify for a Eurovision Grand Final twice.

And in the first of those two sought-after Grand Finals, Switzerland finished right down at the bottom of the scoreboard, in last place.

Since it hosted the very first Eurovision Song Contest in 1956, Switzerland has been unfortunate enough to finish in last place a total of 9 times. 

It's been awarded 'nul points' for its efforts on 4 of those occasions. 

The Code

Switzerland has 4 official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh. During the 20th century, the nation made full use of the 'must perform in your country's national language' Eurovision rule, and has submitted an entry to the Contest in all 4 of their mother tongues.

It's been said that a country often takes more of a risk when it hosts a Eurovision Song Contest the year after it's won. And sure enough, Lausanne 1989 was the year that the Swiss finally sent a song in Romansh. Viver Senza Tei by Furbaz finished 13th out of 22 entries on home soil. And to date, it remains the sole Swiss song to have been performed at Eurovision in the Romansh language. 

No discussion on the langage of Swiss Eurovision songs is complete, however, without mention of Peter, Sue & Marc! 

The trio from Bern represented Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest on 4 occasions, and performed in a different language every time: French (1971), English (1976), German (1979) and Italian (1981). It was their English and Italian efforts that yielded the best results at the Contest, with both songs giving Switzerland a 4th-place finish.

Djambo was the subject of Switzerland's 1976 song

Cool Vibes

Céline Dion isn't the only international megastar to have been drafted in to represent Switzerland at the Eurovision Song Contest. 

Another Canadian singer, Annie Cotton, gave Switzerland a medal-table finish in 1993, when her song Moi, Tout Simplement finished third in Millstreet. 

Elsewhere throughout the 20th century, singers from Germany, France, Italy, Israel and Greece have all performed for Switzerland. Though the vast majority of artists to have represented the country at the Eurovision Song Contest, have indeed been Swiss. 

In 2005, the Swiss entry was Cool Vibes by the Estonian superstar girlband Vanilla Ninja. And one year later, in 2006, Switzerland participated with If We All Give A Little by six4one, a band put together solely to represent the Swiss in Athens. 

The sextet had members from Switzerland, Malta, Germany, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sweden - representation from the latter country being Andreas from the pop group Alcazar, who performed at the interval of the 68th Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final. 

Mister Music Man

Throughout the majority of Switzerland's Eurovision history, broadcaster SRG SSR has used national finals to find the country's participating entries to the Contest. 

After a string of disappointing results in recent years, however, the Swiss broadcaster switched to an internal selection from 2019 onwards. This changed Switzerland's fortunes at the Contest quite drastically, with the country making the Grand Final at every Contest that has taken place since then. And out of those 5 Grand Finals, Switzerland has been in the Top 5 on three occasions, with eventual victory arriving for The Code in 2024.

And it's not just at the Eurovision Song Contest where the Swiss entries have performed well since 2019 – Switzerland's singles chart has also reaped the benefits of a rejuvenated selection method.

In 2019, She Got Me by Luca Hänni became the first Swiss Eurovision entry to reach number 1 on the singles chart there since 1977. Another number 1 single followed a couple of years later, courtesy of Tout L'univers by Gjon's Tears. And Switzerland's pride and joy Nemo has also been awarded with a number 1 smash hit in their native land thanks to their Eurovision winner The Code

Switzerland wins the 68th Eurovision Song Contest with the song The Code by Nemo Corinne Cumming / EBU

For a full breakdown of Switzerland's Eurovision Song Contest past - the placings, the points and the participants - you can check out their Country Profile right here.

You can listen to all 37 songs of Eurovision 2024 via your favourite streaming service or watch the music videos on our YouTube channel.

The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden on Tuesday 7 May (First Semi-Final), Thursday 9 May (Second Semi-Final) and Saturday 11 May (Grand Final) 2024.

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