Eurovision: what happened when Birmingham hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998

Excitement is building for Eurovision 2022 with Ukraine tipped as the favourite to win the Grand Final being held in Italy - but who remembers when Birmingham hosted the song contest?

It’s Eurovision Song Contest time - with the second semi final being held in Turin, Italy tomorrow (Thursday, May 12).

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra has already made it through to Saturday’s Eurovision Grand Final - also being held in Italy - and are favourites to win with their song Stefania.

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The folk-rap band jumped to their feet, waved the Ukrainian flag and thanked everyone for their support after the first semi finals last night.

They will be performing alongside the UK’s Sam Ryder, from Essex, who is singing Space Man. Along with France, Germany, Spain and Italy, the UK is guaranteed a place in the grand final, so you won’t see Tik Tok star Sam in the semi final heats.

But who remembers when Birmingham hosted the Eurovision song contest at the National Indoor Arena (now known as Utilita Arena) back in 1998?

Here’s a look back at what happened in that competition 24 years ago.

Dana International (centre) wins the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, held in Birmingham

Eurovision Song Contest, Birmingham 1998

The Birmingham final of the annual singing contest has been described as “one of the most thrilling voting sequences for years”.

Apparently it “reminded us that Europe is a more open-minded place than we might have thought”, according to the official organisers.

Presented by Terry Wogan & Ulrika Jonsson at the NIA near Brindleyplace in the city centre on Saturday, May 9, the competition got a warm reception from locals.

But all eyes were on the contestants which included performances from Israeli transexual Dana International who swept to victory with Diva. To date she remains the first and only openly transgendered person to have won the Eurovision Song Contest.

Imaani represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998

Germany’s entry, Guido Horn, also brought some drama to the competition when he climbed all over the stage during his act. The UK was represented by Imaani,  the first ever black singer to represent the country.

Twenty-five countries competed, including FYR Macedonia for their first ever Eurovision. In another first, televoting took place in the majority of participating countries.

The NIA in Birmingham, now know as Utilita Arena

The Eurovision Song Contest said of the contest that year: “During the voting process, it quickly became clear that either Israel, the United Kingdom or Malta were going to win, but the FYR Macedonian vote did not give a single point to Malta’s Chiara, giving the victory to Israel.

“The United Kingdom came in second for a record 15th time, and the Netherlands obtained their best result since 1975 - finishing in fourth place.”

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