Competition often goes hand in hand controversy and that is certainly true of the Eurovision Song Contest. Putting a continent full of countries together in a competitive environment, each with their various national and nationalistic traits, is bound to create something of a stir.
Here’s a look at some of the diplomatic and political disputes that have marked the history of Eurovision since its creation in 1956:
1963- Sticking Points
One for the conspiracy theorists: when the Norwegian jury was asked for its verdict, the spokesman mistakenly gave the number of points before saying the name of the country and song number. Asked to repeat the result, the spokesman in Oslo instead invited the presenter to go onto the other juries’ votes first. When eventually the Norwegian judges pronounced their decision, the score was different from the one they had given previously. The new (and therefore final) vote made a decisive difference and Switzerland (which would have won with the original Norwegian declaration) lost out to Norway’s neighbour, Denmark.
1969- A 4-way split
For the first (and only) time in Eurovision history, four countries finished with the same number of points, meaning a tie between Spain, France, the UK and the Netherlands. The organisers had no plan in place for such an eventuality, and not enough winners’ medals to go around. Five countries boycotted the following year’s event as a result of this mix-up.
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1974- Talkin’ About a Revolution
Portugal’s entry became the first song in the contest to actually start a revolution. One month after the competition, Portugal’s military generals decided to use it as a secret signal for a coup d’état. When they played Paulo de Carvalho’s song “E Depois do Adeus” over the radio at 22:55, it gave the green light to rebel leaders to begin what became the Carnation Revolution.
1978- Jordan blanks Israel
With Arab-Israeli relations at a low, Jordan’s national broadcaster refused to air the Israeli version, which went on to win the Contest. The following day, Jordanian television announced that the winners were…Belgium.
1998- Trans-gender success
The Contest was won by trans-sexual performer Dana International. The song, representing Israel, met with a chorus of disapproval from Orthodox Jews. Accused of destroying the reputation of her country, she responded: “My victory proves God is by my side”.
2000- Public show of peace
Two singers from group PingPong, representing Israel, unfurled a Syrian flag at the end of their song, “Be Happy” and called for peace in their country. Israel’s broadcaster had to distance itself from such a public statement, and it emerged that the two singers were in fact journalists and had only entered the competition as a joke.
2005- Lebanon tries to silence Israel
Lebanon was set to take part for the first time but was forced to withdraw because of a Lebanese law banning any reference to the state of Israel. Lebanon’s broadcaster said it would air adverts instead of the Israeli song. But Eurovision rules insists on the broadcasting of the entire programme.
2009- Putin puts Georgia in trouble
Georgia refused to participate in the contest because of opposition to its song from Moscow. The Georgian song, “We Don’t Wanna Put In”, was deemed by organisers to contain a political message (Vladimir Putin was Russian PM at the time). Georgia was asked to change the lyrics but refused, claiming there was nothing political at all in the title or song.
2013- Macedonia accused over statues
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s entry for this year’s competition had to be changed because of its controversial video, which contained images of statues of heroes that both Greece and Bulgaria claim as their own. The statues are part of the “Skopje 2014” project, and include on called “Warrior on a Horse”. Greece claims this to be the traditional Greek idol, Alexander the Great. Disputes over cultural heritage have been a factor in sour relations between FYR Macedonia and Greece