Germany’s 19-year-old entrant Lena sang “Satellite” to a packed audience inside Oslo’s Telenor Arena, where the event was taking place. Lena – full name Lena Meyer-Landrut – received 246 votes, having come from virtually nowhere to be selected in the German regional competition. The single of “Satellite” has hit the Number 1 slot all over Europe.
The country that came last – with 19-year-old Josh Dubovie
singing Pete Waterman’s “That Sounds Good to Me” – was the UK, with just ten points.
Germany hasn’t done well in the contest in recent years, and has never won the competition since the reunification of East and West Germany. The last time Germany won – as West Germany – was in 1982.
There were 18,000 in the stadium, including a member of the Norwegian royal family. The viewing figures this year made it the biggest television event in the world.
Twenty-five countries were competing in the final
, the 55th since the contest began in 1956.
In the decades since, more than 1,100 songs have featured, with the contest becoming strongly embedded into the European consciousness.
However, countries do not have to be in Europe to take part in the event, but their television broadcasters do have to be members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). That was why Israel became eligible to take part in the late 1970s. That country went on to win the event for the first two years it entered (1978 and 1979), and again in 1998 with the transsexual singer Dana International’s “Diva”.
Every year, four countries – Britain, France, Germany and Spain (known as the “Big Four”) – are guaranteed their place in the final. This is because they fund the event. A fifth country ¬– the preceding year’s winner – is also automatically guaranteed a place. For the 2010 contest, that was Norway, which won the 2009 contest with Alexander Rybak’s folk-inspired ballad “Fairytale”.
When the event began in 1956, only seven countries took part but, by 1993, there were 25 countries taking part. Following the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the contest saw a sudden increase in numbers, with many former Eastern Bloc countries queuing up to compete, and, of last night’s 25 finalists, almost half originated from Eastern Europe.
In 2008, a record 43 countries entered the competition, so, in recent years, semifinals have been introduced in order to keep the number of entrants for the final to a manageable 25.
The first 2010 semifinal
took place in Oslo on Tuesday, and saw ten countries make it through. They were Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Iceland, Moldova, Portugal, Russia and Serbia.
A further ten countries qualified on Thursday in the second 2010 semifinal
. They were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Denmark, Georgia, Ireland, Israel, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine qualify.
The other five finalists were the “Big Four” and, this year’s host, Norway.
Bloc votes and nul points
For the first time in its history, the voting for the Eurovision finals was carried out by a 50–50 mix of specialist judges and the viewing public from across Europe. This follows accusations among some quarters of “Eastern Bloc voting”, that is to say that all the Eastern European countries were voting for each other, thereby ensuring that one of them won.
Of the ten contests between 2000 and 2009, six were won by Eastern European countries – Estonia (2001), Latvia (2002), Turkey (2003), Ukraine (2004), Serbia (2007) and Russia (2008) – while only four Western European countries have been successful: Denmark (2000), Greece (2005), Finland (2006) and Norway (2009).
Although 25 countries took part in the final, 39 countries – the number who had entered the contest – were eligible to vote.
Norway, which has won the contest on three separate occasions – 1985, 1995 and 2009 – actually holds the record for coming last with nul points
. In 2009, however, “Fairytale”, Rybak’s Norwegian entry, secured the record for being the winning entry with the highest recorded score of 387 (out of a possible 492). The song also achieved the highest record of the maximum 12 points (16) any one country can award an entry.
Interestingly, Rybak is of Belarusian descent. The first-ever winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, Lys Assia and the 2008 winner, Dima Bilan, presented the award to Rybak.
“Fairytale” was written and composed by Rybak himself. The song features on his debut album, Fairytales