Seven countries participated in the first Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Switzerland in 1956. It was the only iteration when countries performed two songs, and the winner was determined by a secret jury vote. The contest was broadcast on radio as well as on television, as few Europeans had access to televisions at the time.
Infographic of the seven countries that participated in the first contest: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Every country sent in two songs, and Switzerland won with the song “Refrain” by Lys Assia.
The number of participants has grown over the last six decades to represent more than 40 nations from all over Europe. A select few countries from outside the region, such Israel and Australia, have also become recurring participants. The largest number of participating countries was 43 - in 2008, 2011 and 2018.
Bar chart showing the growing number of participants in the contest over time. The contest started with seven countries in 1956, increasing to 13 in 1960. Turkey joined the contest in 1975, and Morocco participated just once, in 1980. The modern semi-final stages were introduced in 2004, allowing more countries to participate. Australia debuted among 40 countries in 2015, and the 2020 contest was cancelled due to COVID-19.
This year, 37 countries are participating: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
To the finish line
Of all the Eurovision winners, Germany has made it to the most finals as part of the “Big Five” – the largest contributors to the EBU – who automatically qualify for the last round. Sweden has made it to the final almost every time it has participated, except for the 2010 contest in Norway where it placed 11th in the second semi-final.
Andorra is the only country that has never qualified for the finals, and last participated in 2009.
Bar chart showing the number of finals each winning country has qualified for. Sweden has made it to the finals 60 out of the 61 times it has competed. Latvia has qualified for the finals 10 times – the least of any winning country.
Glory and victory
With seven wins – four in the 1990s alone – Ireland holds the title for the most successful Eurovision contestant, closely followed by Sweden with six.
Eurovision saw a shift in the winning trends in the decade following the fall of the Soviet Union. Seven of the winners in the year 2000-2010 were Eastern European – Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Serbia and Russia.
List of countries with the most wins:
- Ireland: 7 wins
- Sweden: 6 wins
- France, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Britain: 5 wins each
- Israel: 4 wins
- Italy, Denmark, Norway and Ukraine: 3 wins each
- Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Spain: 2 wins each
- Belgium, Monaco, Finland, Yugoslavia, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Serbia, Azerbaijan: 1 win each
Though Ireland has the most wins, Ukraine has the highest ratio of wins to participation, having won in 2004, 2016, and in 2022 with “Stefania”, an ode to a mother performed by Kalush Orchestra.
Ukraine won 439 of the maximum possible 468 points, thanks to the overwhelming support of the viewing audience, and the win came just three months after Russia invaded the country. It is also the first Eurovision winning song to feature a rap.
Bar chart showing the number of times each country has won or reached the final as a percentage of the number of times they have participated in the contest. At 15%, Ukraine has the highest share of wins for their participation. Belgium has the lowest share, having won 0.016% of the times it has participated.