In the first instalment of 'Myths of the Eurovision Song Contest debunked', a series where we look at misconceptions viewers might hold about the world's biggest live music event, we look at the common belief that the winner always comes from the second half of the show. Where does this come from? Is there enough evidence to back it up? Let's dig into it!
There is a long-held belief that the winner always comes from the second half of the Grand Final show and therefore quite some hype around which half a country will perform in. Granted, there have been more winners that have performed in the second half than the first, but that hasn't always been the case. Curiously, it is particularly untrue for the last few Contests, though the myth persists.
3 of the last 5 winning songs of the Eurovision Song Contest were performed in the first half of the Grand Final, thus contradicting the belief right out of the gate. We don't have to look back very far to find the most recent one; the reigning champion of the Eurovision Song Contest, Duncan Laurence, sang his way to victory from position number 12 of 26 participants in the 2019 Grand Final with Arcade.
No less than 43 songs have won from the second half of the show, meaning that of the 67 Eurovision Song Contest winners, more than one third, exactly 34,3%, were performed in the first half. In 1969, when 4 winners were announced, 3 of them came from the first half: Spain, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Interestingly, in 1979, the winner was Israeli entry Hallelujah, which was drawn 10th out of 19 songs. Placed right in the middle of the running order, the only song to win without being clearly in one half or the other.
In the years between 2005 to 2013, though, all the winning songs were indeed performed in the second half of the Grand Final’s running order, lighting the fire behind this longstanding belief.
Until 2012, the running order of the Eurovision Song Contest was decided by the drawing of lots. Since 2013, on the other hand, the running order - beyond the drawing of halves - has determined by the show producers. These decisions are made to best ensure that each act has the opportunity to stand out amongst the crowd. To come to a decision, the producers look at the genre, whether a song is performed by a solo singer or group, the use of props, the tempo of the song and various other aspects of each act.
In the end, though, it is still luck that decides in which half of the show the acts will perform. After each Semi-Final, each qualifying act draws in which half of the Grand Final they will find themselves. That doesn’t include the host country, which draws its exact starting position during the Heads of Delegation meeting sometime in March, before the show week begins.
Since 2013, after 9 years of winners coming from the second half, the winner has more often come from the first half of the Grand Final. Arcade (12), Amar Pelos Dois (11), Heroes (10) and Rise Like A Phoenix (11) are the most recent winners to have showcased such an outcome. All of these participants were amongst the pre-Contest favourites to win and their running order placement didn’t change their fortunes.
Televoting and Jury
There is some belief that since televoting was introduced, the balance was more inclined to favour the second half. That said, the first winner after full televoting was implemented was Dana International with Diva, which she performed in 8th place in the first half.
In jury-only times, Ireland managed to secure their third victory in a row with Rock’n’Roll Kids, which Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettingan performed in slot number 3 in a Final with 25 songs. In 1974, ABBA performed Waterloo for Sweden as song 8 out of 17, and Céline Dion won the Contest having performed in the first half in 1988. Her Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi was song number 9 in a field of 21 participants.
We’ve had a song called just that, Song #1, Russia's entry for the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, but in this case, we’re not going to talk about Serebro. Instead, we’re asking if the first song performed in the running order has ever won the Contest?
The answer is yes! We’ve had not 1 but 3 winners over the years that performed in the first position. These were 1984’s Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley, 1976’s Save Your Kisses For Me and 1975’s Ding-A-Dong. Interestingly, they’re all groups!
...and the Netherlands?
Winners from the Netherlands, in particular, show a tendency toward being performance early birds. Let’s not forget that the very first song in the Eurovision Song Contest’s history came from the Netherlands, Jetty Paerl's De Vogels Van Holland (The birds of Holland).
Four of the country's winners have performed in the first half of the show: Arcade and Ding-A-Dong, as we've mentioned, as well as 1969’s De Trobadour which performed 8th out of 16 songs and 1959’s Een Beetje which was 5th of 11 participants. Only Corry Brokken’s Net Als Toen was performed in the second half.
When it comes to contests organized in the Netherlands, it's a fair split between winners in the first and second half. In Hilversum in 1958, the winner, France, was in the first half, while in Den Haag in 1980, Johnny Logan won from his position in the second half of the show. In Amsterdam in 1970, the last country performing, Ireland, won the competition and in 1976 in Den Haag, it was the show’s opener from the United Kingdom that swept the competition.