A cheat’s guide to the Eurovision Song Contest

We’ve put together a quick cheat’s guide covering everything you need to know about the Eurovision Song Contest but were too afraid to ask…

Where is this year’s Eurovision Song Contest being held?

It’s the capital of Azerbaijan – the former Soviet state on the Caspian Sea which triumphed in the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 thanks to Ell & Nikki’s catchy ‘Running Scared’.

Ah right, so who’s representing Britain then?
How could you have missed the news that easy listening legend Engelbert Humperdinck has been selected to serve his country by the BBC at the sprightly old age of 75?
The Hump will be performing ‘Love Will Set You Free’, a dignified ballad which has made the UK the fourth favourite to win this year, with odds ranging from 10-1 to 16-1 (at the time of writing).

So who’s the favourite?
Sweden’s Loreen is the red hot favourite, with odds of 2-1 for her rather good trance pop number ‘Euphoria’ – which you’re likely to hear on dancefloors from Kavos to Cardiff over the summer.

Any other contenders?
Russia’s Euro-pop grannies, Buranovskiye Babushki, are second favourites with their jaunty ‘Party For Everybody’ – and actually have a member a few months older than The Hump!
But the dark horses could be Ireland’s terrible twins Jedward with ‘Waterline’. The singing lessons must be paying off because their vocals are definitely better than during their stint on ‘The X Factor’ – and their entry ‘Waterline’ is an undeniably punchy power pop number.
There are 42 countries taking part in total though, so don’t be too shocked if there’s a surprise winner.

When do I tune in then?
The semi-finals are being screened on BBC Three on 22 and 24 May, with the final being broadcast on BBC One and BBC One HD on Saturday 26 May. If you like watching Eurovision as much for the bad efforts as the good ones, make sure you catch the semis!

Hold on, what’s this about semi-finals?
There is only room for 26 songs in the final, but this year there are 42 entrants – so something’s got to give hasn’t it? So 16 unlucky countries will be taking an early bath and 10 qualifiers will go through from each semi to the final.

So where do the other six finalists come from?
Azerbaijan get automatic qualification as last year’s winner and the host nation – and the five countries which contribute the most to the contest economically also get a free pass. These are the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. They’ve already drawn their positions for the final – and Engelbert Humperdinck will be opening the show because the UK drew the first slot. Let’s hope ‘The X Factor’-effect (where the first act often gets voted off) doesn’t apply in Eurovision!

Which country has the best track record?
Everyone knows about the luck of the Irish when it comes to Eurovision – and Ireland has a clear lead with seven wins to its name, including a run of three consecutive victories in 1992, 1993 and 1994 (and then another in 1996). This led to mutterings about “the curse of Eurovision”, because the contest costs so much money to stage.

What about the UK?
You might be surprised to learn that the UK is in joint second place with five wins to its name. Plus a stonking 15 second place finishes. Our winners were Sandie Shaw with ‘Puppet On A String’ (1967), ‘Boom Bang-A-Bang’ by Lulu (1969), ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’ by Brotherhood of Man (1976), ‘Making Your Mind Up’ by Bucks Fizz (1981) and ‘Love Shine A Light’ by Katrina and the Waves (1997).

Who else has done well?
France and Luxembourg (punching well above its weight!) both also have five wins to their credit. Sweden and the Netherlands both have four wins apiece. Israel and Norway both have three wins.

And who has never won?
There are a total of 15 countries which have taken part but never won. It is Portugal which holds the record for the longest dry spell though, having competed for 45 years without a win. Ouch!