Many Europeans see the Eurovision Song Contest as the best show on Earth. And now, the rest of the world is starting to discover it too. What is so special about this annual song competition?

Magazine – The Eurovision song contest

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Every year on a certain Saturday night in May, something quite unique happens in Europe. Millions of people turn on their TVs and prepare to watch their nation compete. But this is no ordinary international competition. It has no footballs, athletes or fast cars. This is a contest based on something much more important: finding the perfect pop song.

What is the Eurovision Song Contest?

In short, the Eurovision is an enormous, televised concert which is full of fireworks, wonderful dancing, lots of colours and shiny clothes. Oh, and pop songs, of course! Each participating country sends a singer or group to perform a song live at the Eurovision semi-final. From these performances, 26 are chosen for the Saturday-night Grand Final.

Which countries participate?

Most of the participating countries are within Europe or are nearby (e.g. Israel, Azerbaijan, etc.). However, due to the popularity of the competition with TV viewers in Australia, this country has been included since 2015.

How do they choose the winner?

After the performances at the Grand Final, each country votes for the best song. TV viewers can vote using their mobile phones, but each country also has an official jury who decide 50 per cent of the votes. Obviously, it is not permitted to vote for your own country. In the end, the song with the most votes wins. The winning country will then host the Eurovision the following year.

What is the origin of the competition?

Although it might seem like a normal TV talent show like The X-Factor or The Voice, the Eurovision has quite historical origins. The Second World War ended in 1945, leaving Europe very divided. In the 1950s, the European Broadcasting Union started to think of an event which would both entertain and unite Europeans. This led to the first European song contest in 1956. It happened in Switzerland and included just seven countries. Decades later, it has grown into an enormous international event with hundreds of millions of viewers.

What are the rules?

The competition's central rule is that each song needs to be a maximum of three minutes. This is shorter than most commercial pop songs, but the organisers decided that this limit was necessary so that the entire Grand Final (including voting) can happen within three hours. While performing the song, there is another rule that the maximum number of people on the stage is six. This includes the singer(s), musicians and dancers. Songs can be in any language, even though most countries choose to sing in English.

Are there any Eurovision stars?

The competition has certainly had some success stories. The Swedish super-group ABBA won the Eurovision in 1974 and then became huge stars with hits like 'Dancing Queen' and 'Mamma Mia'. In 1988, Céline Dion won for Switzerland before finding world fame with songs like 'My Heart Will Go On' from the film Titanic. In 2006, Finnish rockers Lordi won the competition and captured the world’s imagination with their metal music and monster suits. Other winning songs which became international hits were the electro-hit 'Euphoria' by Swedish singer Loreen (2012) and 'Heroes' by another Swede, Måns Zelmerlöw (2015).

What next?

The popularity of the Eurovision has grown more and more each year. Outside of Europe and Australia, the Grand Final is now also watched by viewers in the USA and many other countries. Organisations in certain countries like China and Qatar have even expressed an interest in participating in the competition. So, who knows? Perhaps international unity will finally be achieved not through governments but through three-minute pop songs.

Discussion

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Comments

Our country never participate in Eurovision or any contest like that .
but our people love music they listen to music and go to concert and dance. They are trying to be happy though our government dosen't like happy people. so maybe we can participate in eurovision.
I watched Eurovision a few times sometimes I find it unfair competition for example last year Israel won the prize though there were better groups there. Eurovision is interesting contest but I like X-factor and American Idol more. Actually I like Simon Cowell , and I like English singers who are judge of these contests.

It's my first time to know about the Eurovision Song Contest. What a pity! I like music and I think I will follow it if I have a chance in China. So if China could participate this activity, it would be a great good news for us Chinese.
I do like the idea that international unity will finally be achieved not through governments but through three-minute pop songs perhaps.
And I cannot understand the sentence about Celine Dion quite well, "Céline Dion won for Switzerland before finding world fame with songs like 'My Heart Will Go On' from the film Titanic." I am not quite sure about meaning of "finding world fame with...".
Thank you.

Hi again BING70,

There are two main parts to the sentence you ask about. The first part, 'Céline Dion won for Switzerland' means that Dion won the Eurovision contest (in 1988). The second part, 'before finding world fame ...' means that after her win in 1988, Céline Dion 'found' world fame because of the songs listed. Here, 'find' means 'discover how to achieve'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,everyone!
I really like the Eurovision Song Contest and our singer won it in 2008. Also many of Russians song perfomers achived good results there. We frecuently show colorfull perfomances. Certainly many of other perfomers were liked me too. Especially Alexander Rybak from Norway and Swedish singer Måns Zelmerlöw ,who won the competitions too and many-many others talanted of perfomers.

I wonder why Japanese media does not broadcast the great song competition. It's a shame.

In my opinion this is a good competition, it not only unite the European countries but also attract the orthers county. I also follow up this one too.

I believe that the power of music is too big. I like the rock music more than pop music, but at the end both are expressions of human spirit.

It is an interesting article to read. I missed Céline Dion question though. Thank you very much for the article. I really enjoy practicing.

It's the first time that i try to complete reading magazine in this website, so it's done. There're some a part of article which can't get in easily then I have to spend a half of hour for reading.In the final I can get full score in task 1 , but it's not make sence on task 2.The answer say that position of 'the number of people who watch Eurovision Song Contest' is third from last . I go to the top Line that show "Millions of people turn on their TVs..." .It's cazy doubt for me.Can someone give me the correct way to understand this ?
I'm so sorry about my frankly comment. Fisrt have always plenty of mistake.

Hello HVK964852,

Yes, you are right: the number of viewers is mentioned in both paragraph 1 and in paragraph 5, so the answers could be different. For technical reasons, the task is not able to accept two different sets of answers, so I will remove that sentence from Task 2.

Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about this!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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