What is the Eurovision Song Contest?

Graham Norton Graham Norton commentates Eurovision in the UK

Hundreds of millions of people tune in every year for a live extravaganza of multi-cultural entertainment - the Eurovision Song Contest.

Every year countries from all over Europe - and some from outside Europe - send a song and performers to entertain a worldwide audience.

The contest is hosted by the country that won competition the year before. The 2014 show will be held in Denmark.

Bonnie Tyler Bonnie Tyler represented the UK in 2013

When did it start?

Eurovision started in 1956 when just seven countries took part. In 2008 there were a record 43 countries.

The contest was created by the European Broadcasting Union - an organisation of TV companies in and around Europe.

The idea originally came from an Italian song contest and it was also a chance to test out early live TV technology.

Lordi Finland's heavy metal group Lordi were the surprise winner in 2006

How does it work?

Many countries hold a national competition to select their entry. In the UK the BBC chooses an act to send.

Most competitors then sing in a semi-final to win a place in the grand final - but some countries go straight into the final.

Last year's winner always gets a place in the final - along with the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. They give the most money to the EBU and get a guaranteed place.

How's the winner decided?

A combination of viewer phone votes and the opinions of an expert jury are used to score the countries.

Each country that enters gives points to their favourite song. The song with the most points wins!

Sometimes countries end up scoring nothing and get the dreaded "nul points".

Jemini Nul points: UK duo Jemini didn't score a single point in 2003

Political voting?

Some people think some countries just vote for their neighbours and friends instead of voting for the best song.

For example Greece and Cyprus usually give each other points, while the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland) often exchange votes.

Organisers reintroduced the expert juries in 2009 to try and combat this.

How does the UK do?

Katrina and the Waves The last time the UK won was in 1997 with Katrina and the Waves

The UK has come second 15 times before and won the contest five times. Ireland has won seven times - more than anybody else.

In 1999 acts no longer had to sing in their national language, so many countries began singing in English. Since then the UK has done pretty badly - finishing last in 2003, 2008 and 2010.

More to see: Eurovision fact attack!

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