Sertab Erener took victory by surprise at the 2003 contest, bringing the Eurovision Song Contest to Turkey for the first time. For a short time, there was doubt between hosting the contest in the Turkish capital of Ankara, or to chose for symbolic Istanbul, the only city on two continents. Turkish public broadcaster TRT first picked Mydonose Showland as venue, but moved to the larger Abdi İpekçi Arena as the contest came closer. TRT was given another challenge; for the first time in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest, a televised Semi-Final on Wednesday would precede the Final, traditionally held on Saturday. The two broadcasts respectively took place on the 12th and 15th of May, 2004.
- Also read: The end of a decade: Stockholm 2000
- Also read: The end of a decade: Copenhagen 2001
- Also read: The end of a decade: Tallinn 2002
- Also read: The end of a decade: Riga 2003
For the third consecutive year, the Eurovision Song Contest had a theme: Under The Same Sky. The EBU introduced the new, generic logo of the Eurovision Song Contest, giving the competition a more lasting visual identity.
For the second time, Sven Stojanovic directed the shows, while TRT appointed Bullent Osma as Executive Producer. During the Semi-Final, a new ABBA video was shown, briefly outlining how ABBA started and what the response was of the first record company they approached. It featured small puppets of the band performing snippets of their songs (the voices being the ones of the band).
The Final was opened by Sertab Erener, who entered the arena in a virtual helicopter that looked surprisingly real! The dance ensemble Fire of Anatolia performed as interval act.
Svante Stockselius, the Executive Producer of Stockholm 2000, supervised the contest on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union for the first time.
Due to the addition of a Semi-Final, a record number of 36 countries were represented in Istanbul. The top 10 from Riga, as well as the so-called 'Big Four' (France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom) and the host country (Turkey) automatically qualified for the Final. As Spain was amongst the top-10 from Riga, 14 contestants were assured of a Final spot. The other 22 had to take part in the Semi-Final. All countries that aired the Semi-Final were allowed to vote. During the Semi-Final, only the top-10 would be announced in random order.
Albania, Andorra, Belarus and Serbia & Montenegro debuted in Istanbul. Monaco returned after a long absence as well.
Ukraine, Serbia & Montenegro and Greece topped the polls, and they would indeed finish amongst the first three. Just one year after its debute, Ukraine took victory with Ruslana's Wild Dances.
An hour after the Semi-Final had been aired, the EBU discovered that there had been problems with the vote counting in Monaco and Croatia. Consequently, some votes were not counted in the results announced at the end of the broadcast of the Semi-Final. When the results were corrected to include these additional votes, they were found not to have affected which countries had qualified for the Final.
Just before the Slovenian entry was about to be performed, the Turkish broadcaster accidentally took a commercial break which meant the Slovenian song was not heard by Turkish viewers and consequently, Turkey gave no votes for the song.
Finally, TRT chose not to show a map as Cyprus was called to give its points, to avoid controversy over the status of Northern Cyprus.
For the first time, a televised Semi-Final took place, bringing the number of contestants to 36. The EBU also introduced a generic logo for the Eurovision Song Contest, which would return every year. The Host Broadcaster was invited to design theme art that would support the generic logo.
Tomorrow, Eurovision.tv will look back at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Kyiv.