Eurovision Song Contest 1998

The Eurovision Song Contest 1998 was the 43rd edition of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. It took place in Birmingham, United Kingdom, following Katrina and the Waves's win at the 1997 contest in Dublin, Ireland with the song "Love Shine A Light". It was the UK's fifth win, and the eighth time that the UK hosted the contest, the last being in Harrogate in 1982. The contest was staged at the National Indoor Arena on 9 May 1998, presented by Terry Wogan and Ulrika Jonsson. Wogan was the third person in the contest's history to combine the roles of presenter and commentator, after the hosting duo of Denise Fabre and Léon Zitrone in 1978. When not on stage, he was backstage in his private booth providing the necessary TV commentary to BBC viewers.[1]

Eurovision Song Contest 1998
Final9 May 1998
VenueNational Indoor Arena
Birmingham, United Kingdom
ConductorMartin Koch
Directed byGeoff Posner
Executive supervisorChristine Marchal-Ortiz
Executive producerKevin Bishop
Jonathan King
Host broadcasterBritish Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Opening actBirmingham, Old and New
Interval actJupiter, The Bringer of Joviality
Number of entries25
Debuting countries Macedonia
Returning countries
Withdrawing countries
Voting systemEach country awarded 12, 10, 8–1 points to their 10 favourite songs
Nul points  Switzerland
Winning song

Twenty-five countries participated in the contest,[2] with Macedonia making their official debut, even though they had submitted an entry in the non-televised 1996 pre-qualifying round, which failed to qualify into the televised final of that contest.[3] Belgium, Finland, and Slovakia returned to the contest after 1996. Despite having also taken part in the non-televised 1996 pre-qualifying round, in which they failed to qualify, Romania and Israel returned officially after their last participations in 1994 and 1995 respectively.[4][5] Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Iceland, and Russia all withdrew from the contest due to the relegation rule, whereas Italy withdrew by choice. Italy did not return until 2011.[6]

There was much controversy in the lead-up to the contest, mostly surrounding the entries from Greece, Israel, and Turkey: the Greek composer, Yiannis Valvis, was unhappy with the way that the director, Geoff Posner, intended to film his song;[7] many Orthodox Jews objected to the selection of transsexual Dana International for Israel;[8] Turkey struggled during rehearsals to get their song within the three-minute time limit.[7] Dana International eventually went on to win the contest, scoring 172 points,[N 1] with the song "Diva", written by Yoav Ginai, composed by Svika Pick and produced by Offer Nissim. The singer had attracted much media attention both in Israel and Europe since she had undergone gender reassignment in 1993, being the first openly transgender performer to enter the competition.[8] The United Kingdom finished in second place, one point ahead of Malta who came third.


The United Kingdom, along with their national broadcaster the BBC, hosted the contest at the National Indoor Arena in the city of Birmingham. It was the first time since 1982 that the Eurovision Song Contest was staged in the United Kingdom,[9] and the last to date. This was a record-breaking eighth time that the United Kingdom staged the contest, having done so for the 1960, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1977, and 1982 contests.[10] The announcement of the host city and venue took place on 8 August 1997.[11]


The National Indoor Arena had been used for several major events in the past, including counting no less than eight constituencies in the hall for the 1992 general election.[12] The week after the Eurovision Song Contest, the city was to host the 24th G8 summit, with Terry Wogan vacating his hotel room to make way for Bill Clinton.[13] Opened in October 1991, the arena was best known in the UK for hosting the 1990s British television series Gladiators, also presented by Jonsson, on ITV.

While the capacity of the National Indoor Arena was up to 12,700 seats, the BBC decided to occupy only half of the venue, which could accommodate some 4,000 spectators,[14] a figure that would be systematically surpassed in subsequent years. The main stage had as its most outstanding element a structure in the shape of a whale tail. A large green room was built behind the stage where contestants watched the voting. It resembled a nightclub, with a bar area and 40 large television screens. Both areas were designed by Andrew Howe-Davies.[15]


The running order draw for the contest took place outside the host venue in Birmingham on 13 November 1997, drawn by Wogan and the 1997 winner, Katrina Leskanich.[16] Following a format change in 1997 where acts were allowed to use purely backing tracks, no less than eight countries either partially or wholly used backing tracks: Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Malta, Israel and Belgium purely used backing tracks, whilst Greece[13] and France partially used the orchestra.

This was the first year in which televoting was used en masse: viewers were given five minutes after the end of the songs to vote for the song they wanted to win, with Terry Wogan remarking that "you'll have nobody to blame but yourself", which, ironically, was the reason that Wogan quit the commentary job ten years later.[17] Ironically, the contest was held in an English speaking country for the last time the contest was run without the free language rule, so only the UK, Malta, and Ireland performed in English.[18]


The postcards continued with the opening theme of "Birmingham Old and New", looking at a traditional object and then its contemporary. Popular Britpop songs and also some pieces of classical music were used as background music. Finally, the flag of the country about to perform was formed, and then faded into either the conductor bowing or the beginning of the performance of the country about to perform. The various themes were as following, listed in appearance order:[19]

  1.  Croatia – Football
  2.  Greece – Beaches
  3.  France – Aircraft
  4.  Spain – Leisure
  5.   SwitzerlandLoch Ness
  6.  Slovakia – Jewellery
  7.  PolandGlasgow, Scotland
  8.  Israel – Art
  9.  GermanyIronworks
  10.  Malta – Fashion
  11.  HungaryWales
  12.  Slovenia – Pubs
  13.  Ireland – London, England
  14.  Portugal – Education
  15.  Romania – Sailing
  16.  United Kingdom – Cars
  17.  Cyprus – Food
  18.  Netherlands – Broadcasting
  19.  Sweden – Retail
  20.  Belgium – Theatres
  21.  Finland – Films
  22.  Norway – Medieval
  23.  EstoniaBelfast, Northern Ireland
  24.  Turkey – National landmarks
  25.  Macedonia – Weather


Each country had a televote except Turkey, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, where the top ten most voted for songs were awarded the 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points, with a back-up jury in case of mistakes. A jury was used if there were exceptional reasons not to use a televote.

Opening and interval acts

Birmingham, Old and New

The opening of the contest began with a video entitled Birmingham, Old and New. Views of the past and present of the host city were juxtaposed to give a glimpse of its history. The camera footage ended with a shot of the arena from the approaching canal boat. The orchestra appeared on screen, as well as the trumpets of the Life Guards that sounded the beginning of the transmission. A short video summarising the first competition organised by the BBC in 1960 in London was shown. There appeared Katie Boyle (the only person to have presented the contest four times) who was in the audience along with the winner of the previous year, the vocalist of the group Katrina and the Waves, Katrina Leskanich.

Jupiter, The Bringer of Joviality

The intermission performance was entitled Jupiter, The Bringer of Joviality (a movement from orchestral suite The Planets composed by Gustav Holst in 1914) described as a "great coming-together, a magnificent...muesli" by host and commentator Wogan. It was a medley sung and danced, highlighting the multiculturalism of the United Kingdom and included bagpipes, a male voice choir, a soprano singer, a violinist, and some dancing tribal warriors. Pieces inspired by English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Indian and Zulu cultures were played. Over 200 people were involved in the interval act,[20] which included Clan Sutherland, flutist Andy Findon, an excerpt of Patti Boulaye's Sun Dance (which would later open as a West End musical), harpist Carys Hughes, bhangra dancers Nachda Sansaar, Canoldir Male Voice Choir, Grimethorpe Colliery Band, trumpeters of the Band of the Blues and Royals, Vanessa-Mae, Lesley Garrett and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Martin Koch.[21]


24-year-old Anongkarat Unyawong, a Thai student at the Birmingham School of Jewellery, won a competition to design a trophy for the songwriter(s) of the winning song.[22] In addition, the winning performers each received a unique glass bowl (bearing the acronym of the Eurovision Song Contest) designed in the Midlands by Susan Nickson.[13][21]


Macedonia, participating as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, took part for the first time, after their 1996 entry did not make it past the internal selection by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).[3] Belgium, Finland, Romania and Slovakia all participated after their break from the previous year's contest; Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Russia and Iceland could not participate because of their low average scores from the past five years. Israel could have returned in 1997, but opted not to due to Holocaust Remembrance Day, meaning they returned for the first time in three years. The Italy broadcaster, RAI, decided to withdraw from the contest, a move that would see Italy absent from the contest for 13 years before their return in 2011.[6]

Russia and Italy did not broadcast the event due to withdrawals. In 1998 the Russian broadcaster ORT prepared to run internal preselections, but soon organisers realised that because of low average results in previous years Russia would not qualify to compete in 1998 (though there were rumours that Channel One had planned to name Tatyana Ovsienko as their representative, performing "Solntse moyo"). Because Russia did not participate, Channel One decided not to broadcast the 1998 contest, thus Russia was unable to participate in 1999. According to other sources Channel One had expected Channel Russia to broadcast the contest.[2]


Most performances had a musical director who conducted the orchestra. Germany and Slovenia presented their songs without orchestral accompaniment, but nevertheless introduced a conductor before their songs.

Returning artists

Artist Country Previous Year(s)
Danijela Martinović  Croatia 1995 (as part of Magazin)
Egon Egemann (violinist)   Switzerland 1990
José Cid (as part of Alma Lusa)  Portugal 1980
Paul Harrington (backing singer)  Ireland 1994 (with Charlie McGettigan)

Danijela returned for Croatia after last taking part in 1995 as part of the group Magazin. Egon Egemann who was the violinist for Gunvor this year, last participated for Switzerland at the 1990. José Cid part of Alma Lusa in 1980 returned for Portugal; and Paul Harrington who was a backing singer for Dawn Martin in 1998, returned for Ireland after having won the 1994 with Charlie McGettigan.


The following tables reflect the officially verified results confirmed after the transmission of the live contest. During the voting sequence seen in the broadcast, the Spanish votes were incorrectly announced, as Germany was excluded from the Spanish announcement. Israel & Norway lost two marks and Belgium, Portugal, Malta, Netherlands, UK, Estonia, Croatia & Turkey all lost one mark each once Germany had been awarded twelve points.

Draw Country Artist Song Language[18] Place[23] Points[23]
01  Croatia Danijela "Neka mi ne svane" Croatian 5 131
02  Greece Thalassa "Mia Krifi Evesthisia" (Μια κρυφή ευαισθησία) Greek 20 12
03  France Marie Line "Où aller" French 24 3
04  Spain Mikel Herzog "¿Qué voy a hacer sin ti?" Spanish 16 21
05   Switzerland Gunvor "Lass ihn" German 25 0
06  Slovakia Katarína Hasprová "Modlitba" Slovak 21 8
07  Poland Sixteen "To takie proste" Polish 17 19
08  Israel Dana International "Diva" (דיווה) Hebrew 1 172[N 1]
09  Germany Guildo Horn "Guildo hat euch lieb!" German 7 86
10  Malta Chiara "The One That I Love" English 3 165
11  Hungary Charlie "A holnap már nem lesz szomorú" Hungarian 23 4
12  Slovenia Vili Resnik "Naj bogovi slišijo" Slovene 18 17
13  Ireland Dawn Martin "Is Always Over Now?" English 9 64
14  Portugal Alma Lusa "Se eu te pudesse abraçar" Portuguese 12 36
15  Romania Mălina Olinescu "Eu cred" Romanian 22 6
16  United Kingdom Imaani "Where Are You?" English 2 166
17  Cyprus Michael Hajiyanni "Genesis" (Γένεσις) Greek 11 37
18  Netherlands Edsilia "Hemel en aarde" Dutch 4 150
19  Sweden Jill Johnson "Kärleken är" Swedish 10 53
20  Belgium Mélanie Cohl "Dis oui" French 6 122
21  Finland Edea "Aava" Finnish 15 22
22  Norway Lars Fredriksen "Alltid sommer" Norwegian 8 79
23  Estonia Koit Toome "Mere lapsed" Estonian 12 36
24  Turkey Tüzmen "Unutamazsın" Turkish 14 25
25  Macedonia Vlado Janevski "Ne zori, zoro" (Не зори, зоро) Macedonian 19 16


Voting procedure used:
  100% Televoting
  100% Jury vote
Voters[N 1]
Total score
United Kingdom
Croatia 1315815106101010123227435363412
Greece 1212
France 312
Spain 21146343
Switzerland 0
Slovakia 88
Poland 1925210
Israel[N 1] 1721012101010712761275106510103758
Germany 863121288106612711
Malta 165766581287873125125868512510
Hungary 4112
Slovenia 1732543
Ireland 642242266118814287
Portugal 3611062222164
Romania 66
United Kingdom 166127333171218105561287768581210
Cyprus 3741251114432
Netherlands 1501085476586712107108127873
Sweden 53348215610122
Belgium 12247747125433678761027616
Finland 22101101
Norway 798144355104343312424
Estonia 362814212412
Turkey 25512215
Macedonia 166343

12 points

Below is a summary of all 12 points in the final:

N.ContestantVoting nation
4 MaltaIreland, Norway, Slovakia, United Kingdom
United KingdomCroatia, Israel, Romania, Turkey
3 IsraelFrance, Malta, Portugal
GermanyNetherlands, Spain, Switzerland
2 CroatiaMacedonia, Slovenia
NetherlandsBelgium, Hungary
1 BelgiumPoland

Qualification for the 1999 contest

In addition to the host country of the 1999 contest, Israel, the 16 countries with the highest average scores between 1994 and 1998 were allowed to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 1999.

     Automatic qualifier
     Replacement qualifier

Rank Country Average Score
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
1  Ireland 130.60 226 44 162 157 64
 Israel 126.50 81 172
2  United Kingdom 121.80 63 76 77 227 166
3  Malta 94.40 97 76 68 66 165
4  Norway 83.40 76 148 114 0 79
5  Croatia 74.20 27 91 98 24 131
6  Sweden 67.40 48 100 100 36 53
7  Cyprus 67.40 51 79 72 98 37
8  Netherlands 59.25 4 78 5 150
9  Germany 59.25 128 1 22 86
10  Poland 57.00 166 15 31 54 19
11  France 56.80 74 94 18 95 3
12  Turkey 56.00 21 57 121 25
13  Spain 54.00 17 119 17 96 21
14  Estonia 53.50 2 94 82 36
15  Belgium 50.67 8 22 122
16  Slovenia 44.25 84 16 60 17
17  Hungary[lower-alpha 1] 42.00 122 3 39 4
18  Portugal[lower-alpha 1] 41.20 73 5 92 0 36
19  Greece 39.80 44 68 36 39 12
20  Macedonia 16.00 16
21  Finland 14.00 11 9 22
22  Slovakia 14.00 15 19 8
23   Switzerland 10.50 15 22 5 0
24  Romania 10.00 14 6


Miscalculated result

Spain originally gave its 12 points to Israel and 10 to Norway. After the broadcast it was announced that the Spanish broadcaster wrongly tallied the votes and Germany should have got the top mark – 12 points – instead of receiving zero points, as in the broadcast. The mistake was corrected after the contest and so Germany was placed 7th over Norway. Israel and Norway both received 2 points less than originally and Croatia, Malta, Portugal, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and Turkey all received one point less than indicated during the broadcast. Originally Estonia, Cyprus and Portugal tied for 11th place with 37 points but because Portugal and Estonia received one point less than indicated during the broadcast, Cyprus was placed 11th over Estonia and Portugal.[2]

Dramatic finish

With just one country left to vote, it was anyone's guess as to who was going to prevail, with Israel and Malta locked in battle and the United Kingdom just a few points behind. When Macedonia came to award the decisive points, Israel was the first of the three contenders to be mentioned, receiving eight points. That was enough to knock the UK out of contention for victory, but left plenty of room for Israel to be overtaken by their principal rival, Malta. Next, the ten points went to the UK, nudging them into what looked like being an extremely fleeting spell in second place, since most of the audience assumed the twelve points were destined for Malta. Instead, there were gasps as Macedonia sent the final points of the evening to fellow Balkan nation Croatia, handing Israel their first win in the contest since "Hallelujah" in 1979. It is also noteworthy that the United Kingdom, who finished second, received points from every country, whereas Israel received points from 21 of the 24 other countries. Furthermore, Israel received three sets of 12 points, whereas Malta and the United Kingdom both received four sets of 12 points. Nonetheless, Israel received seven sets of 10 points to help seal the win.

Nul points

For the second year in a row, at least one country went home empty-handed; Switzerland's Gunvor Guggisberg with her composition "Lass Ihn" failed to score a single point.

Guildo Horn

Other notable participants were Germany's Guildo Horn, whose shocking comedic act culminated in his climbing the scaffolding on the side of the stage. Controversially chosen to represent Germany, he was criticised for his lack of seriousness by the German press. However, after winning by 60% of the vote, the German people were firmly on Horn's side. "Guildo-Fever" spread throughout Germany during the weeks leading up to the contest, with Horn becoming front-page material in Germany. He was also noticed in countries around Europe, and the early criticism that had existed in Germany arose in those countries. Even though his 7th place was disappointing, to some Germans it was a revival for the contest in Germany, and was the beginning of four consecutive top-ten finishes.


After the first rehearsals, the Greek composer, Yiannis Valvis, was unhappy with the way that the director, Geoff Posner, intended to film his song, specifically a series of six heavily-emphasised chords accompanied by six dance moves which Valvis felt the director was not placing enough emphasis upon. After a meeting where Valvis attempted to ask for the Greeks to have full control over their performance and this request was rejected, Valvis launched a formal protest at the Greek press conference. After making no progress, Valvis protested more actively at the dress rehearsal, standing on the stage during the Greek song, claiming that he was supposed to be playing bass but had not been given an instrument.[7]

This proved to be the final straw for the EBU, the BBC, and ERT: Valvis was refused entry to the arena on the date of the contest. In response, ERT threatened to withdraw from the competition, which would promote France to second in the running order and reduce the number of entrants to twenty-four. However, minutes later, they reversed their decision. Greece earned only 12 points in the end, all of which came from Cyprus, ranking Greece 20th by the end of the broadcast, their worst result. (Greece would again be ranked 20th in 2014's edition in Denmark with 35 points, but in a different score system). Watching from a hotel room, Valvis accused the BBC of favouritism, as "Diva" had similar chords and moves, which had been given emphasis by the BBC.[7]

Israel and Dana International

Orthodox Jews were unhappy with the fact that Dana International, the first singer at the contest ever to have undergone gender reassignment surgery in 1993, was representing Israel, due to religious obligations.[7][8]

Turkey timing issues

After the first rehearsal, the Turkish conductor was found to be playing the tempo too slowly, and so the Turkish song exceeded three minutes, with the first rehearsal performance being three seconds too long. The next rehearsal performance was, alarmingly, even slower, with the Turkish conductor claiming to a camera that due to a series of "hemi-demi-semi-dim-dams" it was impossible for him to play the song quicker. The third performance came in at 3:07, leading to speculation that Turkey would be disqualified from the contest. The conductor then said that a metronome would be useless due to a number of tempo changes in the song. The final performance on the night was timed at 2:59, which was enough to keep Turkey in the competition.[7]

Ulrika Jonsson ageism row

In a BBC interview, future Eurovision entrant Nicki French said that one of her most memorable Eurovision moments was Jonsson's infamous faux pas during the voting. On hearing that the Dutch lady announcing the Netherlands' votes had previously been a contestant in Eurovision, Jonsson replied, "A long time ago, was it?" which was followed by much laughter from the audience.[24] In fact Conny van den Bos who sang for the Netherlands in 1965 said that she had gone to the contest many years ago; unfortunately for both van den Bos and Jonsson, this wasn't heard above the noise of the audience.[24] What was heard, however, was Jonsson's seemingly insulting comment.[2]

Barbara Dex Award

For the second year, the fansite House of Eurovision presented the Barbara Dex Award, a humorous award given to the worst dressed artist each year in the contest. It is named after the Belgian artist, Barbara Dex, who came last in the 1993 contest, in which she wore her own self designed dress.

Guildo Horn of Germany won the 1998 Barbara Dex Award.

International broadcasts and voting

The show was transmitted to 33 European countries, Australia, Canada and South Korea.[15]

Voting and spokespersons

The spokespersons announced the score from their respective country's televote (or, in some cases, national jury) in running order.

  1.  Croatia – Davor Meštrović[25]
  2.  Greece – Alexis Kostalas[26]
  3.  France – Marie Myriam[27] (Winner of the 1977 contest)
  4.  Spain – Belén Fernández de Henestrosa
  5.   Switzerland – Regula Elsener
  6.  Slovakia – Alena Heribanová
  7.  Poland – Jan Chojnacki
  8.  Israel – Yigal Ravid[28] (later co-presenter of the 1999 contest)
  9.  Germany – Nena
  10.  Malta – Stephanie Spiteri
  11.  Hungary – Barna Héder
  12.  Slovenia – Mojca Mavec
  13.  Ireland – Eileen Dunne
  14.  Portugal – Lúcia Moniz[29] (Portuguese representative in 1996)
  15.  Romania – Anca Ţurcașiu
  16.  United Kingdom – Ken Bruce
  17.  Cyprus – Marina Maleni[30]
  18.  Netherlands – Conny Vandenbos (Dutch representative in 1965)
  19.  Sweden – Björn Hedman[31]
  20.  Belgium – Marie-Hélène Vanderborght[27]
  21.  Finland – Marjo Wilska[32]
  22.  Norway – Ragnhild Sælthun Fjørtoft
  23.  Estonia – Urve Tiidus[33]
  24.  Turkey – Osman Erkan
  25.  Macedonia – Evgenija Teodosievska[34]


Most countries sent commentators to Birmingham or commented from their own country, in order to add insight to the participants and, if necessary, the provision of voting information.

Non-participating countries

Notes and references


  1. After the broadcast it was announced that Spanish broadcaster wrongly tallied the votes and Germany should have got the top mark – 12 points – instead of being snubbed, as it happened. The mistake was corrected and so Germany was placed 7th over Norway. Israel and Norway both received 2 points less than originally and Croatia, Malta, Portugal, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and Turkey all received one point less than indicated during the broadcast. Originally Estonia, Cyprus and Portugal tied for 11th place with 37 points but because Portugal and Estonia received one point less than indicated during the broadcast, Cyprus was placed 11th over Estonia and Portugal.
  2. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was last participated in 1992. Third channel of Radio Television of Serbia broadcast the show, although Yugoslavia did not participate.
  1. Initially, Latvia were going to debut in the 1999 contest, but ultimately did not do so, allowing Hungary to compete. However, Hungary did not participate in 1999, and their place was awarded to Portugal.


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