The results of the semi-finals are sealed and hidden away until after the Eurovision winner has been decided during the grand final. The thinking is that knowing the results of who won the semis before the final may influence voting — and betting.
And while those who know the results of the semis ahead of time may have an advantage when it comes to beating the betting agencies, that’s not always the case. Since the introduction of the semi-finals, there have been four winners who did not manage to win their semi. In two other instances the eventual winners did not compete in the semis. Can you remember who? Let’s have a look and a listen…
UKRAINE 2004 — RUSLANA
Eurovision held its very first semi-final in 2004. It featured 22 countries competing for 10 spots in the final, where they joined the Top 10 finishers from the 2003 contest and the four automatic qualifiers at the time (the so-called Big 4 consisted of France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).
Serbia & Montenegro’s Zeljko Joksimovic won the semi with his Balkan ballad (cue the wooden flute) “Lane Moje”. He beat hip-shaking, loin-cloth wearing Ruslana by seven points. In the final Zeljko earned exactly the same number of points —263 — as he did in the semi. But as Ruslana beat her oversized stick and threw off her fur, she managed to up her tally to 280. Interestingly, France, Poland and Russia did not vote in the qualification round, but they did vote in the grand final. Could the addition of two of Ukraine’s neighbours have made the difference?
RUSSIA 2008 — DIMA BILAN
At the 2008 contest in Belgrade, eventual winner Dima Bilan was surpassed by not one, but two countries — Greece and Armenia.
Greek-American singer Kalomira earned 21 more points than Dima, owing to her fierce dance number “Secret Combination” and her ability to shake those hips like no other. And Armenia’s Sirusho edged Dima out by four points.
Unaware of the result, Dima kept his eyes on the prize and, in one of the most beloved editions of Eurovision ever, managed to beat second-place Ukraine by 42 points. Kalomira and Sirusho had to settle for third and fourth.
AZERBAIJAN 2011 — Ell & Nikki
And once again it’s Greece that slays a future victor in the semi-final, as Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike outperformed Azerbaijan’s Ell & Nikki. The Greeks’ ethnic song “Watch My Dance” squeaked ahead by 11 points in the semi. But the wheels came off the bus in the final, and they fell from first to seventh, finishing behind Azerbaijan, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, Denmark and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
UKRAINE 2016 — JAMALA
The most recent case is, of course, Jamala. In the grand final she didn’t win the jury vote, nor the televote…and as we later learned she didn’t win the semi-final either.
Instead it was Australia’s Dami Im who filled the “Sound of Silence” with stunning staging and her powerhouse vocals, nipping Jamala to first place in the second semi. But in the grand final Jamala had her revenge, finishing second with the jury and televoters, which was enough to win overall by just 23 points.
In every instance above, the eventual winner hails from an Eastern European country — Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine (twice). As has been pointed out countless times by countless commentators, these countries may benefit from bloc voting in the final, where all countries are allowed to vote (rather than just countries competing in the same semi-final). Surely the addition of neighbours voting in the final helps, if even just a little.
There are two more instances where the victors didn’t win the semi-final. That’s because they didn’t face the challenge of qualification.
In 2010 Germany’s Lena qualified automatically to the final as a member of the Big 4 (Italy hadn’t returned to the contest yet). And in 2005 Greece was granted a place in the final due to its top ten placing the year before, thus allowing Helena Paparizou to bypass the elimination round.
So what do you think? Are these worthy winners? Did you prefer any of the semi-final victors to the eventual winner? Let us know in the comments box below