Eurovision Song Contest 1998

Eurovision Song Contest 1998
Final 9 May 1998
Venue National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Conductor Martin Koch
Director Geoff Posner
Executive supervisor Christine Marchal-Ortiz
Executive producer Kevin Bishop
Jonathan King
Host broadcaster British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Opening act Birmingham, Old and New
Interval act Jupiter, The Bringer of Joviality
Number of entries 25
Debuting countries  Macedonia
Returning countries
  •  Belgium
  •  Finland
  •  Israel
  •  Romania
  •  Slovakia
Withdrawing countries
  •  Austria
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  •  Denmark
  •  Iceland
  •  Italy
  •  Russia
Voting system Each country awarded 12, 10, 8–1 points to their 10 favourite songs
Nul points   Switzerland
Winning song
Eurovision Song Contest
◄1997 1998 1999►

The Eurovision Song Contest 1998 was the 43rd annual Eurovision Song Contest. The contest took place in Birmingham in the United Kingdom, following Katrina and the Waves's win in the 1997 contest in Dublin with "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 UK has not won or hosted the contest since. The contest took place in the National Indoor Arena on 9 May 1998, and the city played host to the G8 summit one week later, with commentator Terry Wogan's hotel room subsequently being occupied by Bill Clinton.[1] Twenty-five countries participated in the contest,[2] with Macedonia making their official début, 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 a one-year absence. 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, Italy, and Russia all withdrew from the contest due to the relegation rule. 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 Svika Pick and Yoav Ginai. 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]


For more details on the host city, see Birmingham.
National Indoor Arena, Birmingham - host venue of the 1998 contest. (pictured in 2005)

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 the 1982 Contest 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 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.[11] 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.[1]


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[1] 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.[12] 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.[13]


The postcards continued with the opening theme of "Birmingham old and new", looking at a traditional object and then its contemporary. 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. For example, Croatia's postcard looked at association football then and now, culminating in Temur Ketsbaia scoring a goal, before a section of the crowd held up small cards, which formed the flag of Croatia.


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.


Macedonia, participating as 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 Italian 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. According to other sources Channel One had expected Channel Russia to broadcast the contest.[2]

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 contest. 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 contest with Charlie McGettigan.


Draw Country Artist Song Language[13] Place[14] Points[14]
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:
Red: Televote.
Blue: Jury.
Voters[N 1]
Croatia 131 5 8 1 5 10 6 10 10 10 12 3 2 2 7 4 3 5 3 6 3 4 12
Greece 12 12
France 3 1 2
Spain 21 1 4 6 3 4 3
Switzerland 0
Slovakia 8 8
Poland 19 2 5 2 10
Israel[N 1] 172 10 12 10 10 10 7 12 7 6 12 7 5 10 6 5 10 10 3 7 5 8
Germany 86 3 12 12 8 8 10 6 6 12 7 1 1
Malta 165 7 6 6 5 8 12 8 7 8 7 3 12 5 12 5 8 6 8 5 12 5 10
Hungary 4 1 1 2
Slovenia 17 3 2 5 4 3
Ireland 64 2 2 4 2 2 6 6 1 1 8 8 1 4 2 8 7
Portugal 36 1 10 6 2 2 2 2 1 6 4
Romania 6 6
United Kingdom 166 12 7 3 3 3 1 7 12 1 8 10 5 5 6 12 8 7 7 6 8 5 8 12 10
Cyprus 37 4 12 5 1 1 1 4 4 3 2
Netherlands 150 10 8 5 4 7 6 5 8 6 7 12 10 7 10 8 12 7 8 7 3
Sweden 53 3 4 8 2 1 5 6 10 12 2
Belgium 122 4 7 7 4 7 12 5 4 3 3 6 7 8 7 6 10 2 7 6 1 6
Finland 22 10 1 10 1
Norway 79 8 1 4 4 3 5 5 10 4 3 4 3 3 12 4 2 4
Estonia 36 2 8 1 4 2 1 2 4 12
Turkey 25 5 12 2 1 5
Macedonia 16 6 3 4 3

12 points

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

N. Contestant Voting nation
4 Malta Ireland, Norway, Slovakia, United Kingdom
United Kingdom Croatia, Israel, Romania, Turkey
3 Israel France, Malta, Portugal
Germany Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland
2 Croatia Macedonia, Slovenia
Netherlands Belgium, Hungary
1 Belgium Poland
Cyprus Greece
Estonia Finland
Greece Cyprus
Norway Sweden
Sweden Estonia
Turkey Germany


Miscalculated result

Spain originally gave its 12 points to Israel and 10 to Norway. 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 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 Israel only received points from 21 of the 24 other countries, whereas the United Kingdom received at least one point from every country, but finished second. Furthermore, whilst Israel received three sets of 12 points compared to Malta and the United Kingdom who both received four sets of 12 points, 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 4 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, her worst result till 1998. (Greece would again be ranked 20th in 2014's edition at Denmark with 35 points.) 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]

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.[15] 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.[15] 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

Voting and spokespersons

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


Notes and references


  1. 1 2 3 4 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.


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