As Sweden prepares to take on hosting duty once more in May, becoming the the only country to have hosted Eurovision in five consecutive decades. We look back to the previous instances when Sweden was at the helm of Europe’s favourite song contest.
ABBA’s famous victory in Brighton in 1974, brought Eurovision to Sweden and to Stockholm for the first time. Whilst the contest was a success it caused a headache for Swedish TV who withdrew from participating in 1976 due to the cost of staging the event the year before. Behind the scenes there was controversy when Turkey announced participation for the first time prompting Greece to withdraw in protest at the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. 1975 is notable because it was the first year that the current voting system (1 to 8, 10, 12 points) was introduced. Highlights from 1975 include the infamous winner 'Ding-A-Dong' from the Netherlands and Germany’s Joy Fleming with her somewhat over the top performance
For some fans 1985 is a golden year for Eurovision with many of the songs establishing themselves as firm fan favourites. Sweden took the show to Gothenburg and to the Scandinavium which was one of the larger venues that the contest had been staged in. It’s worth remembering that Eurovision in those days was a far more sober affair (quite literally!) with audiences often consisting of invite-only attendees. The star of the show was arguably the presenter Lill Lindfors, who represented Sweden in 1966 and perhaps most famous for her deliberate wardrobe malfunction in which her skirt appeared to get caught as she walked onto the stage. In a break with tradition, Terry Wogan provided commentary from TV Centre as he was too ill to attend the show in person. Highlights in 1985 include Sweden’s 'Bra Vibrationer' and of course the winner from Norway, 'Let Det Swinge'. Watch out for some serious backcombing amongst the Italian backing singers too!
Terry Wogan and Michael Ball
Sweden won the right to host Eurovision by a whisker after they won the 1991 contest on count back when they drew with France. SVT took the show to Sweden’s third city, Malmö in 1992 and were praised by the EBU scrutineer, Frank Naef for the professional organisation of the Contest. It was a far cry from the chaotic programme organised by the Italians the year before! Eurovision has often been used as a platform for promoting national identities and that was certainly the case in 1992 with the Viking ship theme for the set. 1992 is the final year that Yugoslavia participated in Eurovision and this was also the year that kicked off Ireland’s string of victories. Highlights in 1992 include Italy’s 'Rapsodia' performed by the late Mia Martini, a very young Michael Ball singing his heart out for the UK and the first appearance from the tempestuous Evridiki who would go onto perform three times for Cyprus. Interesting the top three songs were all performed in English, promoting some countries to claim that the UK, Ireland and Malta had an unfair advantage over countries with lesser-known languages.
In 2000 the Contest returned to Sweden’s capital and to the Globen arena, which was at that point, the largest venue that Eurovision had ever been staged in (until the Danes came along a year later and dwarfed it!) The 2000 Contest had a very modern almost minimalist feel to it, gone were the fancy postcards and flags on the scoreboard. The Israeli entry was a controversial one after the group PingPong waved the Syrian flag during their performance. The hot favourites, Estonia, failed to set the scoreboard alight and finished in fourth place, which was at that point, their best ever placing. It was a disappointing night for the UK after Nicki French finished in 16th place, the worst British placing in Eurovision at that time. In true British spirit she held her head high though and went to the after show party armed with a large flag. Highlights in 2000 include the surprise winner from Denmark, the Dutch entry with her oversized tent dress and Latvia’s impressive debut with Brainstorm.
Eurovision returns to Malmö in May and like the Swedes have done in previous years, they are putting their own stamp on the Contest. The last time SVT organised Eurovision it was a very different event; the free language rule was still relatively new, as was televoting and there were no semi-finals. 39 countries will compete this year and 2013 is likely to have a very different feel to it. In recent years the costs of Eurovision have spiralled; in 2009 Russia boasted the biggest LED screen in the world and in 2012 Azerbaijan built a brand new venue specifically for Eurovision. 2013 is going to be on a smaller scale than previous years. Many fans are upset at the standing room only tickets and also the fact that the running order will be decided by the producers of the show, whilst others are revelling in the fact that Eurovision is returning to Sweden, the land of the schlager genre that they love so much. There are interesting times ahead as the eyes of Europe turn to Malmö!...