This year the Eurovision Song Contest will be returning to The Netherlands after 41 years. Understandably, many aspects of the contest have changed since the country last hosted in 1980.
Before we dive in to explore the differences, let’s take a look at the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest and how it came to be. This was the 25th edition, held on April 19th 1980 in The Hague. This was the second time that the city would play host to the contest, their first time being in 1976. Israel was the winner of the 1979 contest but declined the chance to host for the second time in a row due to financial reasons. After Spain and (reportedly) the UK declined the invitation to host, it was agreed that The Netherlands would host a small-scale production in The Hague.
The 1980 contest was held at Nederlands Congresgebouw (now known as The World Forum), which had a capacity of 5,000. Flash forward 40 years, and you’ll see that the contest has grown on a much wider scale. This year’s venue, Rotterdam Ahoy, has a capacity of 16,000. Although we saw around 9,000 fans attend the 2019 shows in Tel Aviv, Israel, the 2018 host arena, the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, had a capacity of 20,000.
Marlous Fluitsma was the host of the 1980 contest, although each competing song was introduced by someone from that nation, and Hans van Willigenburg was the host of the green room. Having more than one presenter wasn’t unheard of before this time, as the 1978 and 1979 editions featured two presenters each.
Towards the end of the 80s, it became more common to see two people present the shows. 1999 was the first time we saw three presenters take to the stage, and since then the only solo presenter was Petra Mede in 2013. 2017 was the first time that three male presenters would host the contest, and a year later another record was set by Portugal, having four female presenters host.
This year’s edition of the contest will be hosted by Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley, Jan Smit, and Nikkie de Jager.
The Participating Countries
A total of 19 countries participated in the 1980 contest, including Turkey who returned that year, and Morocco with their one and only Eurovision entry to date. To say that the competition only started with 7 participating countries, it soon grew in size. In 1990, the EBU had to limit the number of participating countries to 22, meaning that Malta (who were eager to return after 15 years) were unable to. They were to return a year later, however, due to the withdrawal of The Netherlands.
After the dissolution of the Eastern bloc and the separation of Yugoslavia, the contest saw a rise in countries interested in participating. The 1993 contest was the first year where a pre-qualifying round was introduced for the countries that had never competed in the contest.
The first ever semi-final was held in 2004, a contest with 36 participating countries. Due to the popularity increase over the next few years, 2008 saw the introduction of another semi-final, and this format has been used ever since. Around 19 countries participate in each semi-final, proving just how popular the contest has got since the 1980 edition.
The Language Rule
During the years 1966-1972 and 1977-1998, participating countries were required to sing in their national language. The 1980 contest saw:
- 4 French entries (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland)
- 2 English entries (United Kingdom, Ireland)
- 2 German entries (Germany, Austria)
- 1 Arabic entry
- 1 Danish entry
- 1 Dutch entry
- 1 Finnish entry
- 1 Greek entry
- 1 Italian entry
- 1 Norwegian entry
- 1 Portuguese entry
- 1 Spanish entry
- 1 Swedish entry
- 1 Turkish entry
Since 1999, artists have been allowed to sing in any language. We’ve even seen imaginary languages featured in 2003 and 2008 (both from Belgium too!), and from The Netherlands in 2006.
Several performances have featured sign language, the most recent being France’s 2019 entry “Roi”.
Although nowadays the majority of countries choose to send entries in English, we have seen over 50 different languages grace the Eurovision stage since its creation.
The voting system has changed considerably over the history of the contest. Since 1975, each country had a jury who awarded 12, 10, 8, all the way down to 1 point for their top ten songs. New to the 1980 contest was the fact that the spokespersons read out their points in ascending order starting from 1 all the way to their maximum 12 points. This was introduced to add excitement to the voting sequence.
Flash forward to recent times, and you could say quite a lot has changed in regards to voting. Each country still has a jury, but the public televote was also introduced to allow the people watching at home to have a say in the results. Since 2016, the jury results are still presented by a spokesperson, who now only read out the jury’s 12 points while the 10, 8, 7, etc points are shown on screen. The televoting result is then presented in the order of jury ranking from lowest to highest, making for very exciting viewing.
Although so much has changed since The Netherlands last hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, there’s no doubt that they will do all they can given the circumstances to put on a fantastic show for us all.