By Mitch Rice
Excitement is steadily building amongst music fans around Europe, who are eagerly anticipating the return of the continent’s biggest entertainment competition, The Eurovision Song Contest. Last year’s edition was won by Italy, which means they’ll host this year’s event, set to take place at Turin’s PalaOlimpico in May. The Italians will be confident that home advantage will work in their favour, although they are only second-favourites to win according to oddschecker, so picking this year’s champion certainly won’t be easy.
Eurovision 2022 will be the 66th edition of the contest, which has been held every year since its inception, with the exception of 2020. The competition is famous for helping launch the careers of ABBA, Celine Dion and Bucks Fizz.
In 1950, the European Broadcasting Union was formed as a way of improving relations between European nations. While similar organisations existed before the EBU, the members were government officials rather than broadcasters, which meant messaging often became too political. The group’s organisers felt that producing programs to be universally broadcast across different nations on the continent would show Europeans that they shared more similarities with each other than they previously thought. Early events broadcast on the EBU include Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 Coronation and the 1954 Narcissus Festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
Inspired by Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival which started in 1951, the first-ever Eurovision Song Contest took place in Lugano, Switzerland in 1956. Only 7 countries took part in the competition, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland, with each performing 2 songs. Switzerland was announced as the winner after votes from two jury members from each participating nation. The competition was broadcast in several European countries; there are no known copies of it in existence due to the fact that televisions weren’t yet universally popular.
The first edition of the Eurovision Song Contest featured several aspects that have since been adapted, such as undisclosed voting and judges being able to vote for their own countries. Each participating nation is represented by an artist or group chosen by their public broadcaster (e.g the BBC in the UK), who can choose the representative independently or via another method such as a public vote. These representatives are then placed into a semi-final draw which pits them against their counterparts from the other nations. The top ten acts from each semi-final qualify for the final, joining France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK, who automatically qualify as they contribute the most money to the EBU. The host nation also automatically qualifies.
Once final performances have been completed, viewers are invited to vote for their favourite act, which cannot be from their country, with their votes contributing to 50% of the result. The other 50% comes from the panel of judges which is made up of a jury of five music industry professionals from each participating country.
Most Successful Nations
Ireland is the most successful nation in Eurovision history with 7 wins, although its most recent was in 1996. Their success has come with a price as the 3 consecutive wins between 1992 and 1994 caused concern in the country due to the resources required to host the competition so many times, and many believe this is the reason they haven’t won it since then.
Sweden has the second most Eurovision wins with 6, and their most recent was in 2015. ABBA’s success in 1974 was the nation’s first triumph and it helped make the competition popular among the Swedish public.
The United Kingdom, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands all have five wins each.
Countries to Watch This Year
As the holder of the current title, Italy was expected to be the nation to beat this year; however, global solicitude for Ukraine, as well as their catchy song, has made them early favourites. Sweden is also expected to make a big impact thanks to its illustrious history, while the UK is also being tipped to go far thanks to its selection of a popular TikTok star as the country’s representative.