Eurovision: 30 things you didn’t know about the hit singing competition

Eurovision facts

by Kayleigh Dray |
Updated on

Fancy representing the UK at Eurovision? Here’s everything you need to know about the singing competition - including how to apply!

1) It all began with such good intentions

The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956, when seven countries came together in Switzerland with the sole purpose of uniting nations through song.

N’aww. How things change, eh?

Nowadays a whopping 40 countries can enter and compete in the semi-finals for a place in the final, where 26 entries duke it out for the chance to win big.

However it goes without saying that there’s a LOT of politics when it comes to voting, with some describing 2015’s competition as a throwback to the Cold War. Yikes!

It’s best to expect tension on the phone lines, okay?

2) The UK will ALWAYS have a place in Eurovision

While most countries have to apply for the privilege of starring in Eurovision, six countries are guaranteed places in the final and do not have to compete in the semi finals.

They are France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, and the previous year’s winner.

3) Ireland are the true heroes of Eurovision

Yup, they’ve won a whipping seven times - the most wins for any country.

However poor old Jedward, who competed twice in the competition on behalf of the green isle, never brought home the trophy.

4) We’ve hosted Eurovision more than once

The UK has hosted the competition five times – in London, Edinburgh, Brighton, Harrogate and Birmingham.

5) Less is definitely more

Way back in 1957, the Italian entry lasted 5 minutes and 9 seconds, shattering ear drums and souls across the continent as a result.

Nowadays, songs cannot last longer than three minutes - else it’s time for an immediate disqualification.

6) There are age restrictions

In 1989, the French entry was just 11-years old, and the Israeli entry was 12. It seems as if this didn’t go down well with viewers, as the very next year the rules were changed.

Nowadays ALL artists competing in a Semi-Final must be aged at least 16 on the day of the Final. All artists competing only in the Final must be aged at least 16 on the day of the Final.

7) You’re more likely to win if you’re a woman

Ditch the band, ladies - you’re destined for success if you shake off your backing vocalists and go it alone. If you ignore the bands, 27 Eurovision winners have been ladies, while just 7 have been men. Girl power!

8) … and an English-speaking woman, at that!

They’ve done the research, and the results aren’t all that surprising; most winning Eurovision songs are performed in English - it’s happened 26 times, if you want to be exact. French is also popular, with 14 victories. Dutch and Hebrew songs have won a measly 3 times each.

9) … without any shoes

Yup, going barefoot seems to do wonders for your public appeal. There have been five barefoot winners in Eurovision history: Sandie Shaw (1967), Sertab Erener (2003), Dima Bilan (2008), Loreen (2012) and Emmelie De Forest (2013) - proving that shoes are for SUCKERS!


If your country performs second on the Eurovision stage, we have bad news for you – no one has ever gone on to win from here.

And, before you start, Cliff DIDN’T win - that’s just a bit of selective editing from us all. He came second.

11) Knowing me, knowing you…

… there is nothing we can do to beat the likes of ABBA, who remain the most successful Eurovision Song Contest winners ever. The Swedish pop band won the contest in 1974 and has enjoyed phenomenal success ever since.

Jealous, us? Kind of, yeah.

12) Which explains why the UK weren’t ABBA fans…

That’s right, the United Kingdom gave zero points to ABBA in 1974.

ZERO! What were we thinking, eh?

13) Although you can give it a damn good try

Celine Dion (1988), Cliff Richard (1968 and 1973), Lulu (1969) and Julio Iglesias (1970) all went on to have successful careers after their stint in Eurovision, didn’t they?

14) Everyone’s a winner

Or, at least, they were in 1969, when there were four winners; Salome from Spain with "Vivo Cantando", Lulu from the United Kingdom with "Boom Bang-A-Bang", Lenny Kuhr from the Netherlands with "De Troubadour" and finally Frida Boccara from France with "Un Jour, Un Enfant".

They all had the same points, and back then there were no rules for a tie. Oops.

15) Except for Norway

While you may think of the UK as the country most likely to score a shattering ‘nul points’, Norway have scored the most zeroes more times than any other country in history.

They’ve also, bless ‘em, come last a record-breaking ELEVEN times, making them the show’s biggest losers - literally. However they seem to be faring better nowadays, thanks to the likes of Fairytale singer Alexander Rybak.

Who was gorgeous, by the way.

16) And Portugal

Eurovision’s longest running losers are the Portuguese, having never made the top five. Bless them.

17) The UK’s first victory was a controversial choice

Mainly because Sandie Shaw, who sang the 1967 entry Puppet On A String, HATED the song with a passion.

She later said:"I hated the song from the first oompah to the final bang on the big bass drum. I was repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune."

That’s a tad awkward, wouldn’t you say?

18) There’s something fishy about Luxembourg

Luxembourg has won 5 times, sure - but none of the 5 winners came from Luxembourg. Four were French and one (Vicky Leandros) Greek.

19) The application process is different in every country

As they explain on the official Eurovision website: “All entries and singers are picked by the Participating Broadcasters.

“These are the Members of the EBU that take part in the Eurovision Song Contest. Why? Because at the Eurovision Song Contest, it is broadcasters rather than countries that take part.

“For example, in the UK this is the BBC, in Germany it's NDR, in Sweden it is SVT and so on.”


20) And it’s a pretty gruelling application process

Even celebs find it tricky to represent the UK at Eurovision; think Katie Price, Andy Scott-Lee, Kym Marsh, Anthony Costa, Big Brovaz, Justin Hawkins, Brian Harvey, and Liz McClarnon, to name just a FEW who auditioned but didn’t make the cut.

21) The UK has finished last in three Eurovision contests

Jemini's infamous 2003 "nul points" result was the first time that the country had come last in the contest, which was followed in 2008 and 2010 by Andy Abraham and Josh Dubrovie.

And, while Electro Velvet didn’t come last in 2015, they did score a measly 5 points - the UK’s worst tally since that aforementioned Jemini incident.

Sad times, huh?

22) The BBC take applications very seriously nowadays

After a run of disappointing results for the United Kingdom in the contest, the BBC decided to change their entire process for selecting their entry for Eurovision 2016.

They invited anyone over the age of 18 to submit a video of their original song for consideration, and asked the UK branch of the OGAE (aka the largest independent Eurovision fan club in the WORLD!) to assist in the shortlisting of these open entries.

In addition, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) organised a songwriting competition to find the lyrics and music, while Hugh Goldsmith – former MD of RCA and founder of Innocent Records – took over as Music Consultant to the BBC, overseeing communication with established record labels, publishers, managers, writers and producers, in order to encourage high-level music industry involvement too.

In short, it wasn’t a breeze to make it through to the finals this time around!

Find out more about the Eurovision application process here.

23) Animals are a big fat no-no

Live animals are not allowed on stage at Eurovision - no exceptions.

24) Numbers DO matter

Each performance may consist of a maximum of six people on stage - which is confusing when you consider the sheer number of butter-churning maids we had on stage that time.

Find out the full list of Eurovision rules here.

25) It’s not just about the phone-in votes…

The Eurovision contestants don’t just need to impress the viewers back home; they also have to impress the national jury, which is made up of five people (all of whom work in the music industry as radio DJs, artists, composers, lyricists, or producers).

The winner is determined by a 50:50 combination of jury votes and televotes.

26) But what if there’s another tiebreaker situation?

If there is a tie among the national jury members’ votes, the youngest member decides. But, if there is a tie between the national jury’s score and the televoting score, the country with the most televotes wins.

27) Eurovision did big things for velcro

In 1981, Bucks Fizz stunned viewers with their performance for ‘Making Your Mind Up’ - but not because of their powerful goals. Nope, instead it was for those Velcro rip-away skirts.

Within 48 hours, Velcro had sold out across the country.

Singer Cheryl Baker said: "A strip of Velcro changed my life."

Ours too, Chezza - ours too!

28) And for Rusiana, too!

When Ukrainian singer Rusiana won Eurovision 2004, she was rewarded with a seat in Parliament. As you do.

29) You can be kicked out if you don’t pay your way

Romania was expelled from Eurovision 2016 due to unpaid debt to EBU (European Broadcasting Union).

30) And they don’t actually say the words ‘nul points’, you know…

Despite its fame, the phrase "nul points" is never actually used in Eurovision. We know, we’re blown away too.

Instead they tend to say "pas de points" or "zero point”.

We’ll be listening out VERY closely for that this time around…

Which was your favourite ever Eurovision entry?

Let us know via Facebook or Twitter (@CloserOnline) now.

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