Data visualization reveals most unlucky Eurovision nations

By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

Eurovision can be a truly euphoric experience – for national representatives and fans alike around the world. But, some countries have developed cruel tendencies where victory remains agonisingly close, yet elusive.

So which countries have finished Eurovision runners-up the most number of times?

Eurovision runners-up by country (1956 – 2014)

Note for the uninitiated: Are you a Eurovision newbie? If you’re just jumping on the Eurovision bandwagon now, and would like a little background information about this idiosyncratic event, check out our first data blog of the series, Data visualization reveals success by gender at Eurovision.

Insights

  • The UK are the perennial bridesmaids of Eurovision, claiming second place on a staggering 15 occasions
    • The UK have almost four times the number of Eurovision ‘silver medals’ compared to the next most
  • Spain, Ireland, France, Germany and Switzerland all share the incongruous honour of second position on the all-time runners-up list, with four second place finishes each
  • UK, France, Germany and Spain (four parts of the ‘Big 5’ – those nations that make the largest economic contribution to the contest (along with Italy)) have experienced more Eurovision heartache than most
  • There was no official runner-up awarded at the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest because of the four-way tie for first place between Spain, France, Netherlands and the UK

The curse of the UK
Using Business Intelligence and data visualization, it’s clear that despite being one of the most successful Eurovision nations with five wins (for more detail, check out our data blog Data visualization shows most successful Eurovision nations), the UK has experienced the most Eurovision heartache with 15 second place finishes. Ironically debuting in the second year of competition (1957), UK entrants have finished second almost four times more often than those nations with the second highest number of second place finishes. Spain, Ireland, France and Germany all share the incongruous honour of second position on the all-time runners-up list, with four second place finishes each.

Other than the UK’s habitual Eurovision tragedies, it’s also clear that the competition isn’t rigged, with four of Eurovision’s ‘Big 5’ economic contributors (UK, France, Germany and Spain) being afflicted by a high number of Eurovision anguishes. For other factors that may impact national Eurovision success, see our blog post Data visualization reveals advantage of hosting Eurovision.

But, as alluded to in a previous Eurovision post – Data visualization shows most successful Eurovision nations, the most tragic Eurovision nation might just be one that hasn’t appeared on the all-time runners-up list at all.

Not only has Portugal competed in 48 out of a possible 59 Eurovision Song Contests for no win, but…


They haven’t even managed to claim the runners-up mantle. Not once – despite only missing a few contests since their debut at Eurovision 1964. Ouch. But we’ll look at the worst performed Eurovision nations another time. So, back to the ‘hard luck’ stories of Eurovision.

Now that we have an understanding of which nations can count themselves as luckless Eurovision tragics, what happens when we assess the location of these nations?

Eurovision runners-up by country: A geographical perspective (1956 – 2014)


Insights

  • Most nations that have been Eurovision runners-up are located in Western Europe
  • Western Europe is also home to more countries that have been Eurovision runners-up, on multiple occasions, compared to any other region (depending on your interpretation of where “Central Europe” begins and ends)
  • Only a few Eastern European countries have been Eurovision runners-up

A western concentration
Assessing location-relevant data from a geographic perspective often provides insightful context. Analysing a map of all-time Eurovision runners-up, since the competition started in 1956, quickly shows us that the majority of Eurovision runners-up are located in Western Europe. In addition, the western half of the European continent also contains more countries that have been Eurovision runners-up on multiple occasions.

So does this mean Western European nations have actually experienced a disproportionate amount of so-near-but-so-far heartache at Eurovision? Perhaps the same countries have also won Eurovision more often, which simply reflects the fact that if you consistently put in strong performances, you’ll have more ‘near misses’ as well as more victories?

Where to next?

Keep the quirky Eurovision-esc tunes pumping as we explore the correlation (or not) between Eurovision winners and runners-up.

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