Love it or hate it, Eurovision is back on our screens next month and fans will we awaiting the weird and wacky to hit the stage. Every year, the contest is marred by controversy – whether that be by political or tactical voting, or an act or song that aims to shock. Throw in a wardrobe malfunction or two, sound technicalities, or a stage invader for good measure – and you have the ingredients for the controversy of Eurovision. Here, we will count down five of the most controversial moments from the competitions history. But first, if you want your Eurovision betting fix, take a look at all the latest odds on Paddy Power.
5. Voting Scandal (1963)
The 1963 Eurovision was held in London – at the Television Centre, no less, after the BBC stepped in to organise the contest (the previous winners France were unable to due to financial reasons). That in itself could be considered controversial, but it had happened before in 1960.
But the real scandal came when it was time for the countries to reveal their votes. There were 20 jurors, who had to awards points for their best five songs. When it came to Norway to announce their votes, spokesman Roald Øyen did not use the correct procedure. When host Katie Boyle asked him to repeat his votes, he asked if they could return to him again later. When they returned to Oslo, the votes mysteriously changed and thus awarded the win to Norway’s neighbours Denmark, rather than Switzerland.
Monaco also awarded one point to two countries, but on their second time of scoring the songs, got it right, with the UK receiving one point and Luxembourg not receiving any. Although that didn’t affect the scoring, it was still controversial nonetheless.
4. Four winners (1969)
Fifty years ago, controversy sparked at the Eurovision Song Contest when four countries received the same number of points and there weren’t any rules in place to justify just one winner, so all four countries were declared joint-winners. The contest was held in Madrid, and it’s no surprise that one of the winning countries was the hosts.
There were 16 entries and each country could distribute 10 points freely to their favourite. The highest points awarded was six, from France to the Netherlands and at the end of voting, those two countries along with Spain and the UK (whose act was Lulu with Boom Bang-a-bang) were all tied on 18 points.
These days, if there is a tie, the country with points from the most countries will win – but the rules have changed a lot over the years. Interestingly, Austria, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden all boycotted Eurovision the following year.
3. Dana wins for Israel (1998)
It may not seem much of a big deal now; but in 1998, the selection of Dana International to represent Israel caused uproar. Dana (real name: Sharon Cohen, birth name: Yaron Cohen) came out as transgender at the age of 13, before going on to have surgery in 1993. Five years later, with two albums already released, she went on to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest – much to the displeasure of many Orthodox Jews who took to the streets to protest and even issued death threats to the singer. The voting was close, but Israel beat the UK by six points.
The following contest was dogged by controversy when it was held in Jerusalem. During the interval, Dana performed again and the Orthodox Jews were incensed by the lyrics that were deemed to be religious.
However, Dana paved the way for Conchita Wurst, ‘the bearded lady’ to win Eurovision for Austria in 2014.
2. Political outrage (2000)
While Eurovision is supposed to be fun and cheesy, there are always tensions between countries and none more so than in 2000. Israel and Syria were at war and the former, who were in Eurovision, decided to ease tensions by waving Syrian flags at the end of their performance at the dress rehearsal. To add insult to injury, the rehearsal was on Israel’s Independence Day. The Israeli leaders were understandably not happy and even tried to ban their own act, believing Ping Pong were betraying their nation.
Ping Pong stayed in the competition and opened the show with their song Sameach (Hebrew for ‘happy’). Oh, and they still waved the flags at the end, calling for peace. They finished 22nd out of 24 countries with just seven points.
1. Stage Invasion I (2010), II (2017) and III (2018)
Jaume Marquet i Cot, better known as Jimmy Jump is known for interfering with many major sporting events, including the Euro 2004 final, 2010 World Cup final and Champions League games. However, in 2010, he took to the Eurovision stage in Oslo. He invaded during fellow countryman Daniel Diges’ performance, and involved himself within the choreography before leaving the stage and being escorted away from the arena to the nearest police station. Spain were allowed to perform again, but still finished 15th out of 25 countries.
In 2017, Ukrainian winner Jamala took to the stage for her comeback performance, but halfway through the song, she was joined by an unexpected visitor. The invader was later revealed as Vitalli Sediuk, a self-confessed Ukrainian prankster who has history of abusing celebrities. This time around, he took to the stage draped in an Australian flag, before going on to drop his trousers and bare his bum for the world to see. Of course, he was tackled and dragged off by security, but it appears that security didn’t tighten up…Only last year did another invader take to the Eurovision stage. This time it was during the UK’s performance of Storm by SuRie. British political activist Dr ACactivism stormed the stage, grabbed the microphone from the singer’s hand and shouted “Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom! War is not peace”, before he was wrestled from the stage. SuRie continued, singing “Don’t give up” to cheers from the crowd; and was given the opportunity to perform again, but she declined. She finished 24th out of 26 countries, with 48 points.