What is Eurovision? A guide to the biggest song contest in the world

Eurovision is — somehow — looming just around the corner now that the Oscars have been and gone and “Everything, Everywhere All at Once” triumphed big time. Now, it’s time for Eurovision everywhere all at once. But what is the Eurovision Song Contest? Here’s a handy little guide to help you out.

What is the Eurovision Song Contest?
The Eurovision Song Contest is an international song competition organised every year by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The contest is made up of various European countries that perform a song and compete for the public’s votes in each country as well as the points of the judges (more on that later).

The first edition of the contest was held in 1956 and was won by Switzerland with the song “Refrain” by Lys Assia. Since then, 69 songs from 27 countries have won the contest as of 2022 (in 1969, four countries won — Spain, UK, Netherlands, and France). Ireland holds the record for most wins with seven while Sweden is close behind with six. France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the UK have five wins each.

Where does the Eurovision Song Contest take place?
The contest takes place in the country that wins the competition the year previously. So, Azerbaijan won in 2011 and then hosted the 2012 edition of the contest, for example. Last year’s winner, however, was Ukraine — the contest can’t be held there due to the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War.

Instead, the 2023 competition will be held in the UK, which finished second last year. Specifically, it will be held in Liverpool — the home of The Beatles.

Who is in the Eurovision Song Contest?
The previous year’s winner automatically qualifies for the next year’s competition while the Big Five also qualify automatically. The Big Five are made up of France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the UK and they get this privilege because they are the highest-paying EBU members who contribute the most money to funding the event every year.

The rest of the countries have to compete in two semi-finals. The top 10 countries from each semi-final then qualify for the final.

Australia is also in the Eurovision Song Contest, which might not make much sense given that, well, they aren’t in Europe. The country was allowed to compete in 2015 to commemorate the 60th Eurovision Song Contest and they’ve remained in the contest ever since, although they do have to qualify like all the other countries bar the Big Five and the previous winner.

How does the Eurovision Song Contest final work?
Once all the countries have qualified from the semi-finals, they each perform in the final in a lengthy, colourful, and often hilarious broadcast. Once everyone has performed, the phone lines for voting are opened in every country.

Then, a representative from each country (usually a celebrity) appears on the broadcast to announce the voting results from that country. The results are made up of a combination of the public’s votes and a jury’s decision. Each country awards 1-8, 10, and 12 points to its favorite song from the competition. The most favorite song is awarded 12 points.

Once every participating EBU country has voted (and this counts for all EBU members, not just the countries that qualified for the final), the votes are tallied up and made into a league table. The league table is updated constantly as the points come in, so it makes for tense viewing.

Last year, there were 25 countries competing — Ukraine finished top of the table with 631 points, the UK finished second with 466, and Spain finished third with 459. If there happens to be a tie at the end of voting, the country that received the most public votes is declared the winner.

When is this year’s Eurovision Song Contest?
This year’s competition will be held in Liverpool in the UK. The two semi-finals will take place on May 9 and May 11, respectively. The grand final will take place on May 13 at 20:00 BST. Stay tuned for more Euro updates.

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