(Reuters) - Belgrade will host the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, the 53rd edition, on May 24. Serbia won the rights to host the competition after Marija Serifovic, from Serbia, came away with the top prize last year.
Here are some facts about the contest.
* The Eurovision Song Contest, an event that is often laughed off by critics as tacky and kitsch, also boasts a television audience estimated at around 100 million people each year.
* The first contest took place in 1956 and it has been broadcast every year since. It was originally conceived in Monaco by Marcel Bezencon and based on the Italian Sanremo Festival held since 1951. Switzerland won the first contest.
* The 13th Eurovision contest in 1968 was the first to be broadcast in colour from London’s Royal Albert Hall. Cliff Richard’s seminal “Congratulations” came second, beaten by Spanish Massiel who piped him to the title by one point with “La La La”, which used the word “La” 138 times.
-- Earlier this month it was announced that the British singer was robbed of victory in the 1968 contest after Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had the vote fixed. It was Spain’s first of two victories in the competition’s history.
* Singer Johnny Logan has won the contest three times. In 1980 and 1987 he represented Ireland as a performer and won both times. In 1992 he wrote Linda Martin’s winning entry.
* ABBA is the most successful Eurovision Song Contest winner. The Swedish pop band won the contest in 1974 with the song “Waterloo”.
* The most covered song in the contest is Domenico Mudugno’s “Nel Blu Di Pinto Di Blu”, also known as “Volare”.
* Norway came last most often in 1963, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1990, 1997, 2001 and 2004. However, they also won twice in 1985 and 1995. Britain first won the contest in 1967 with the song “Puppet on a String” sung by bare-footed Sandie Shaw. Ireland has won 7 times, Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom 5 times. Sweden and the Netherlands won 4 times.
* In the 2007 contest, Serbia’s Marija Serifovic won after voters from 42 countries chose her potent but simply staged ballad “Molitva”, or “Prayer”. It was Serbia’s first solo appearance in the contest, held in the Finnish capital Helsinki after monster-masked rockers Lordi secured Finland’s first win in 2006.
Sources: Reuters/Eurovision Song Contest Website:
Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit;