The Eurovision Song Contest, also known as Eurovision or ESC, is an annual talent competition that’s been taking place since 1956. One of the longest-running TV programs in the world, it draws hundreds of millions of viewers from both participating nations and those with no involvement whatsoever.
The majority of the participants are members of the European Broadcasting Union, and each submits an original song to be performed live on radio and television by the singer or band of their choosing. After each performances, the other nations vote on the quality of the song and artist. Each country has a panel of professional judges, and votes are also accepted from the general populace.
The nations with the highest scores advance to the finals. In addition, the host nation receives an automatic spot in the finals. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom also earn instant spots in the finals, as they are the largest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union. Since a number of the smaller nations view the contest as a way to gain international recognition, the automatic inclusion of the “Big Five” has led to a number of protests over the years.
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The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest is scheduled to begin with a semi-final show on May 10th. A second semi-final follows on May 12th, with the finals to be held two days later. This is the 61st version of the contest, and a record-tying 43 countries are scheduled to compete.
Australia will return after their special guest status of 2015, while Croatia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are all scheduled to compete after lengthy absences. Sweden will host the event following their win in 2015, with performances taking place in the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm.
For the first time since 1975, a new voting system will be in place. Each country gets to award two sets of points from 1 to 8, plus 10 and 12. One set comes from a panel of professional jurors, while the second is comprised of televotes from the general population. These two scores are intended to be combined, giving each nation a single score.
Being an American, I don’t recognize the names of any of the artists scheduled to perform. I’m sure a number of them are well-known in certain parts of the globe, so my ignorance is in no way a commentary on their talents.
Based on their previous success, it would be unwise to bet against Ireland. The Emerald Isle has walked away with the title a record seven times, including an incredible four-year run in 1992 to 1996. Sweden is only one win behind with six, though, and they also have the home field advantage.
According to bookmakers, Sergey Lazarev of Russia is the favorite to win with “You Are the Only One.” He’s followed by Frans of Sweden, Nina Kraljic of Croatia, Dami Im of Australia, and Ira Losco of Malta.
Wagering on Eurovision
If you’re planning to wager on the annual Eurovision Song Contest, you’ll find a number of options being offered from sportsbooks. While these differ from one site to another, the following are some of the most common choices:
- Future Winner – Offered many months in advance, this wager allows bettors to make a long-term prediction about the winning country.
- Outright Winner – Once again, the goal is to pick the winner of the event. Unlike the futures option, this bet is available closer to the date of the actual contest (when more information is available).
- Top Finish – The bettor predicts a country to finish within the certain range. Examples include a top four finish, top five finish, and top 10 finish.
- Live Betting – I’m not sure if live betting exists for this event or not. If it does, then bettors have the option to place wagers while contestants are singing on the stage. This can be helpful, especially if a performance is especially noteworthy (for good or ill).
- Prop Bets – These can range from interesting to downright silly. Examples of prop bets include the over/under on the length of a song, the color of dress that someone is going to wear, or the over/under on a nation’s overall score.
Notable Eurovision Winners
Winning the Eurovision Song Contest is no small feat, and it can have a major impact of the career of a performer. While they’re likely to be beloved in the nation they represent, this popularity can often bleed over into other lands and transform a relative unknown into an international superstar. In the lengthy history of the ESC, here are some of the most notable winners.
- ABBA – One of the best-selling groups of all time, the Swedish stars known for “Dancing Queen” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” represented their home nation with “Waterloo” during the 1974 competition. This appearance allowed them to achieve international success, and they went on to sell between 150 and 400 million albums. “Waterloo” has since been voted as the most popular song in the history of Eurovision.
- Lordi – This Finnish metal band with monster masks and outlandish theatrics made history in 2006, as they became the first hard rock act to secure first place. Their winning song was titled “Hard Rock Hallelujah.”
- Celine Dion – Before she became a best-selling artist in the United States, the French-Canadian songstress took Switzerland to first place in 1988 with a performance of “Ne partez pas sans moi.” This led to her first taste of international stardom, and she’s since sold more than 200 million albums.
- Bucks Fizz – Formed specifically for the contest, this British pop group represented the United Kingdom in 1981 with “Making Your Mind Up.” They would go on to have a successful international career, becoming one of the top-selling UK bands throughout the 1980s.
- Conchita Wurst – Wearing a beard and dress, this drag queen successfully represented Austria in the 2014 contest with “Rise Like a Phoenix.” As you might imagine, they became an iconic figure in the LGBT community in the process.
- Johnny Logan – This Australian-born singer and songwriter has brought home three wins for Ireland. He won in 1980 with “What’s Another Year,” then again in 1987 for “Hold Me Now.” His third win came in 1992, as Linda Martin sang the Logan-penned tune “Why Me?” Due to his success, he’s often known by the nickname “Mr. Eurovision.”
- Katrina and the Waves – Known in some parts of the world for their infectious 1985 hit “Walking on Sunshine,” the band won for the UK with their performance of “Love Shine a Light.”