Douze Points! The Eurovision Song Contest

Tomorrow evening, May 26, the 57th Eurovision Song Contest will be held in the city of Baku, Azerbaijan, following Azerbaijan’s win last year.

Eurovision Song Contest - Baku 2012

The event has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and it is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. The song contest  is also one of the oldest identifiably ‘pan-European’ elements in popular culture, attracting a huge audience  and extensive media coverage each year, with the higher-scoring songs often making an impact in national singles charts. The contest is not run by the EU, but by the entirely separate European Broadcasting Union, and in fact it pre-dates the European Economic Community. 

The politics of power, pleasure and prayer in the Eurovision Song Contest | Bolman Filip V.

The politics of power, pleasure and prayer in the Eurovision Song Contest by Bolman Filip V. (2007)

Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The pictures below are of  Sandie Shaw, winner in 1967, representing the United Kingdom with “Puppet on a String”.

Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson in Wien     Udo Jürgens und Sandie Shaw beim Song Contest 1967 in Wien

The voting systems used in the contest have changed throughout the years. The modern system has been in place since 1975, and is a positional voting system. Countries award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to other songs in the competition — with the favourite song being awarded 12 points.


Artists whose international careers rocketed following their victory include ABBA (1974, “Waterloo”), and Celine Dion (1988, “Ne partez pas sans moi”). Traditionally host countries are presented in ways that reinforce the stereotype image of that particular nation with ethnic elements, traditional costumes, old buildings, and pictures of national landmarks.

Europeana is full of audio visual material from Eurovision’s long running history, including highlights from the 1960s to modern day euro pop and heavy metal performances:

Eurovision song contest        L'ukrainienne Ruslana remporte l'Eurovision

[Concours de l'Eurovision]        Eurovision Song Contest 1971

Preparations for Eurovision        France's victory in the Eurovision Song Contest

Do you have some favourite Eurovision moments? If so please share them below in the comments section.

This year’s contest will begin broadcasting live from Baku on Saturday, May 26, at 21:00h CEST.

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