The Eurovision Song Contest 2008 was the 53rd edition of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. It took place in Belgrade, Serbia, following Marija Šerifović's win at the 2007 contest in Helsinki, Finland with the song "Molitva". It was the first time Serbia had hosted the contest - only 1 year after the country made its debut as an independent nation. Organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and host broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), the contest was held at the Belgrade Arena, and (for the first time) consisted of two semi-finals on 20 and 22 May, and the grand final on 24 May 2008. The three live shows were hosted by Jovana Janković and Željko Joksimović. It was the first Eurovision Song Contest held in a former Yugoslav republic with the 1990 contest in Zagreb being held before the dissolution of the country.
Forty-three countries participated in the contest, beating the record of forty-two set the year before. Azerbaijan and San Marino participated for the first time, while Austria did not return, mainly due to questions on the semi-final organisation, and the politicization of the contest.The winner was Russia with the song "Believe", performed by Dima Bilan who wrote it with Jim Beanz. This was Russia's first victory in the contest, and the third year finishing in the top three. Ukraine, Greece, Armenia and Norway rounded out the top five. Armenia achieved their best result to date in this edition. Of the "Big Four" countries Spain placed the highest, finishing sixteenth, while the United Kingdom ended up in last place for the second time in their Eurovision history, after 2003.
The official website, eurovision.tv, streamed national finals for this year's contest live on ESCTV for the first time. Furthermore, for the first time the winner has been awarded an official winner's trophy of the Eurovision Song Contest. The trophy is a handmade piece of sandblasted glass in the shape of a 1950s microphone.
Serbia gained the right to host the Contest after Marija Šerifović won the 2007 Contest in Helsinki, Finland. Since Serbia was the winner of the preceding contest, the 2008 contest was subsequently held there. The Belgrade Arena in Belgrade was chosen as the venue for the contest, and is among the largest indoor arenas in Europe, with a total capacity of 25,000 seats.
On 14 September 2007, the Mayor of Helsinki handed over the "Eurovision keys" to the Deputy of Belgrade. This ceremony is meant to be a tradition from the 2008 contest and onward, and the ring contains a key from every city that has ever hosted the competition.
Potential change of location
Following the unilateral Kosovo declaration of independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, which has resulted in protests and unrest across the country, the location of the event was considered to be changed. Ukraine was considered an option since they came second in Eurovision Song Contest 2007. YLE were another option, as they hosted the previous year's competition in Helsinki, Finland. Greece's Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi (ERT) also offered the EBU to host the contest in Athens, Greece again. It was later decided that the contest would stay in Belgrade, with the EBU giving support. RTS would gain a guarantee of safety and security from the government of Serbia for all visitors and participants of the contest. The delegations of Albania, Croatia and Israel had special security. In the end, the contest was held without any incidents.
RTS ran a competition that led to the creation of the 2008 Contest's branding, logo and the stage. The theme of the Contest was based around the "confluence of sound". This was symbolic as Belgrade lies on the confluence of two European rivers, the Sava and Danube. The logo chosen, a treble clef, formed the graphical basis of the design created by Boris Miljković.The postcards in the first and second semi-final were based around the creation of the flag of the nation that was to perform next. Each post card had a short story related to each country and its people. During each postcard a short letter was displayed. All were in the national language of the artist's country, with the exception of the Serbian postcard, which consisted of "Welcome to Belgrade" and "Welcome to Serbia" in various languages and the Belgian postcard which was written in the constructed language the Belgian group performed in. The postcards were brought to an end by a stamp with this year's Eurovision logo.
According to RTS the stage represented native identities, history and modern themes, symbols and universally recognised messages. The confluence-themed stage also contained a large number of television and LCD display screens. The stage had settings for all new electronic possibilities including some movable parts of the stage. It was designed by Chicago-based David Cushing.
The first semi-final was created around a city theme. The contest opened with a panorama of the city of Belgrade forming in the stage's background with two waves sliding down the stage to meet in the centre – at the confluence, the overall theme of the contest.
The second semi-final was based around the theme of water, which was enhanced by the look of the stage during the interval act where the water formed the main colours of the stage.
The grand final was based on the theme of the confluence. Construction of the stage lasted several days and was carried out by various teams from across Europe. Pyrotechnics were heavily used for the entries from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Finland, Germany, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Switzerland. The stage received positive feedback from the media and fans describing it as "one of the best looking stages in the history of the competition".
At a press conference in Helsinki in May 2007, Svante Stockselius, executive supervisor of the Contest for the EBU, announced that the competition's format may be expanded to two semi-finals in 2008 or 2009. On 28 September 2007 it was announced that the EBU had approved the plan of hosting two semi-finals in 2008.Based on research conducted by the EBU's tele-voting partner Digame, the semi-finalists were sorted into the two heats through the drawing of lots, which was seeded to keep countries that have a significant history of voting for each other apart. Each broadcaster had to broadcast the semi-final in which they took part, with the broadcasting of the other semi-final being optional. The draw for the semi-final allocation occurred in the City Assembly of Belgrade on Monday 28 January 2008 at 13:00 CET and was conducted by the hosts of the contest Jovana Janković and Željko Joksimović.
First, two envelopes with 'Semi-Final 1' and 'Semi-Final 2' were drawn. Then, three countries from each pot were chosen randomly to take part in the first semi-final and the other three in the second one. The country left in Pot 5 took part in the first envelope that is drawn. While, the country left in Pot 6 in the second one.The automatic grand finalist countries chose whether they would broadcast both semi-finals or just one, but viewers from these countries could only vote in one. From the draw conducted, it was decided which of the five grand finalist countries would broadcast and have voting rights in either of the events. The semi-finals were webcast live through Eurovision.tv. The top nine songs from the televoting qualified for the grand final, and a tenth was determined by the back-up juries. Twenty-five songs competed in the grand final.
On 24 January 2008, all 38 countries in the semi-finals were separated into the following pots based on voting history and geographical location:
The draw to decide the running order of the songs in each semi-final and the grand final was conducted at the Heads of Delegation meeting on 17 March 2008.
On 21 December 2007, the EBU confirmed that 43 countries would be present in Belgrade. San Marino, as well as the newest EBU member, Azerbaijan, made its debut at the 2008 contest. Austria did not compete; its broadcaster, ORF, said "we've already seen in 2007 that it's not the quality of the song, but the country of origin that determines the decision." Italy, which had not competed since 1997, and which would have been an automatic finalist, was again absent. Slovakia was absent due to budget problems.
The following countries competed in two semi-finals which were broadcast live on Tuesday 20 May and Thursday 22 May 2008. In addition to this, automatic grand finalists Germany and Spain exercised voting rights at the first semi-final. France, the United Kingdom and Serbia exercised voting rights at the second semi-final. Spain and France each broadcast only the semi-final in which they participated; Germany, Serbia and the UK screened both semi-finals (with Germany broadcasting on a delay).
The first semi-final was held on 20 May 2008. Germany and Spain voted in this semi-final.
The second semi-final was held on 22 May 2008. The United Kingdom, France and Serbia voted in this semi-final.
The grand finalists were:
the four automatic qualifiers France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom;
the host country Serbia;
the top nine countries from the first semi-final plus one wildcard from the juries;
the top nine countries from the second semi-final plus one wildcard from the juries.The grand final was held on 24 May 2008 and was won by Russia.
Below is a summary of all 12 points in the first semi-final:
Below is a summary of all 12 points in the second semi-final:
Below is a summary of all 12 points in the grand final:
Broadcasters, commentators and spokespersons
The voting order and spokespersons during the grand final were as follows:
Broadcasters and commentators
Most countries sent commentators to Belgrade or commentated from their own country, in order to add insight to the participants and, if necessary, provide voting information.
As stated above, a country only has to broadcast the grand final and the semi-final when it is one of the competitors or voters. The United Kingdom, San Marino, Greece, Croatia, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Malta, Serbia, Finland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Portugal, Cyprus, Israel, Estonia, Turkey, Latvia, Slovenia, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Andorra, Albania, Bulgaria, Iceland, Sweden, Romania and Australia confirmed they would broadcast both semi-finals (some in delay and some live).
RTS broadcast the event in 1080i high-definition (HD) and 5.1 Surround Sound. The new high-definition television system was in place at the Belgrade Arena by April 2008. This is the second year that the event was broadcast live in HD. BBC HD broadcast the contest in High Definition in the United Kingdom. Swedish broadcaster SVT broadcast both the semi-final and the grand final on their HD-channel SVT HD. Lithuanian broadcaster LRT broadcast both the semi-final and the grand final in 1080i high-definition (HD) on their channel LTV. The same occurred on Swiss HD channel HD suisse; on this channel viewers were able to choose the language of the commentary while viewing a semi-final or grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest. However, all other countries broadcast the show only in standard definition, and the event will only be available to buy on a standard-definition DVD; it will not be released on HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc.
Although Australia was not eligible to enter, the contest was broadcast on SBS. The first semi-final was broadcast on Friday 23 May at 19:30 local time, with the second semi-final on Saturday 24 May 2008 at 19:30 local time, and the Final on Sunday 25 May 2008 at 19:30 local time, amongst a weekend of Eurovision-themed programming. SBS local host Julia Zemiro provided introductory and concluding segments with SBS otherwise broadcasting the BBC's coverage and commentary. In recent years the contest has been one of SBS's highest-rating programmes in terms of viewer numbers. The grand final rated well for SBS with 427,000 viewers tuning in for the grand final with 421,000 for the second semi-final and 272,000 for the first semi-final. Austria
In Austria, ORF broadcast the contest live and received high TV ratings. However, it did not broadcast the semi-finals on 20 and 22 May, which Austrians were able to watch on German television via ARD stations instead. Italy
No Italian broadcaster proper showed the contest, but San Marinese SMRTV, which broadcast live the full event on both TV and radio, is available in some parts of Italy: Romagna (and a small part of Emilia, including Bologna), northern Marche, and southern Veneto, including Venice.Worldwide
A live broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest was available worldwide via satellite through European streams such as TVRi, ERT World, ARMTV, TVE Internacional, TRT International, TVP Polonia, RTP Internacional, RTS Sat and SVT Europa. The official Eurovision Song Contest website also provided a live stream without commentary via the peer to peer medium Octoshape. Gibraltar
Gibraltar screened only the final on GBC.
In addition to the main winner's trophy, the Marcel Bezençon Awards and the Barbara Dex Award were contested during the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. The OGAE (French: Organisation Générale des Amateurs de l'Eurovision, English: General Organisation of Eurovision Fans) voting poll also took place before the contest.
Marcel Bezençon Awards
The Marcel Bezençon Awards honour the best competing songs in the final. Named after the founder of the contest, the awards were created and first handed at the 2002 contest by Christer Björkman (Sweden's representative in the 1992 contest and the country's current Head of Delegation), and Richard Herrey (a member of the Herreys who won the 1984 contest for Sweden). For the only time, the awards were divided into four categories: Artistic Award which was voted by previous winners of the contest, Composers Award, Poplight Fan Award which was voted by fans on the Swedish website poplight.se, and Press Award.
OGAE is an international organisation which conducts a voting poll for the favourite songs among its members before the annual contest. It consists of a network of over 40 Eurovision Song Contest fan clubs across Europe and beyond. Below is the top five overall results, after all the votes had been cast.
Barbara Dex Award
The Barbara Dex Award is a humorous fan award given to the worst dressed artist each year. Named after Belgium's representative who came last in the 1993 contest, wearing her self-designed dress, the award was handed by the fansite House of Eurovision from 1997 to 2016 and is being carried out by the fansite songfestival.be since 2017.
Eurovision Song Contest: Belgrade 2008 was the official compilation album of the 2008 Contest, put together by the European Broadcasting Union and released by EMI Records and CMC International on 12 May 2008.The album featured all 43 songs that entered in the 2008 contest, including the semi-finalists that failed to qualify into the grand final.