Skip to main content

The end of a decade: Belgrade 2008

31 December 2009 at 11:03 CET

"Veni, vidi, vici" or "I came, I saw, I conquered" in English, is probably the closest quote as it gets to describing the road of Serbia at the Eurovision Song Contest. It was 2007 when they first participated as an independent country and it was the same year when they also won in Helsinki. Marija Šerifović took the trophy home proudly and the Serbian broadcaster RTS accepted the honour of hosting Europe's favourite TV-show and did it with great enthusiasm.

The Confluence of Sound, inspired by Belgrade's location at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, was the theme of the Shows. 

The Belgrade Arena was chosen as the venue for the contest, and is among the largest indoor arenas in Europe, with a total capacity of more than 20,000 seats. 

The shows

Traditionally, the opening act of the Final was the winning song of the previous edition. This time it was an interesting mix of Marija Šerifović's Molitva with half-men half-women backing dancers and vocals. The show was hosted by Jovana Janković and Željko Joksimović.

The postcards in the first and second Semi-Final were based around the creation of the flag of the nation that was to perform next. Each post card had a short story related to it regarding Belgrade and its people. During each postcard a short letter written by the musician of the upcoming performing country was displayed. All were in the national language of the artist’s country, with the exception of the Serbian postcard, which consisted of "Welcome to Belgrade" and "Welcome to Serbia" in various languages, and the Belgian postcard, which was written in the same made-up language as their entry. The postcards were brought to an end by a stamp with this year's Eurovision Song Contest themeart.

Sandra Šuša was the Executive Producer appointed by RTS and Svante Stockselius supervised the contest on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union for the fifth time.


The contestants

On 21 December 2007, the EBU confirmed that 43 countries would be present in Belgrade. San Marino, as well as the newest EBU member, Azerbaijan, made its debut at the 2008 contest.

Sweden sent a former winner to Belgrade - Charlotte Perelli, formerly known as Charlotte Nielsen, who won the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest with Take Me To Your Heaven. This time, she did not manage to repeat that and finished 18th.

Russia decided also to go with an artists who had already been at Europe's favourite TV-show before. Dima Bilan had finished third in 2006 with his song Never Let You Go. This time he was chosen to sing Believe. Europe did believe him and his song brought home the long-awaited trophy for Russia. The Russian megastar was accompanied on stage by the Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton and Russian olympic and three-time world champion figure skater Evgeni Plushenko.



Due to problems and riots in Belgrade following the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo on 22 February 2008, the location of the event was considered to be changed but in the end the EBU got the guarantees from the Serbian government that everyone would be safe. In the end, the contest was held without any security incidents.

Jelena Tomašević represented Serbia with a song composed by one of the hosts, Željko Joksimović; this led to debate over his role in the contest.

The development

It was the first time in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest when two Semi-Finals were held. Only 5 countries qualified directly to the Final - Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Host Country of Serbia. 

Based on research conducted by the EBU's tele-voting partner Digame, the Semi-Finalists were sorted into the two heats through the drawing of lots, which was seeded to keep countries that have a significant history of voting for each other apart. Each broadcaster had to broadcast the Semi-Final in which they took part, with the broadcasting of the other one being optional. The automatic finalist countries chose whether they would broadcast both semi-finals or just one, but viewers from these countries could only vote in one.

All the other countries had to qualify from the Semi-Finals. Nine participants from each Semi-Final qualified with the votes of the viewers and one was awarded a wildcard by the back-up juries all over Europe. 

On the 14th of September 2007, the Mayor of Helsinki handed over the Eurovision keys to the Deputy of Belgrade. This ceremony has been a tradition from the 2008 contest, and the ring contains a key from every city that has ever hosted the competition.

Next, will look back at the last Eurovision Song Contest of the decade, which took place in Moscow.