Eurovision song contest 2015: 5 things about the talent show

The Eurovision song contest is a talent show that started in 1956.

Held annually and televised live around the world, the competition reportedly attracts about 125 million viewers globally.

Here are five facts about the competition.

1. It's a talent show

Participants are drawn mainly from the countries which are part of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Eurovision is one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world.

In an interview with CNN in 2012, Dr Karen Fricker, co-director of the Eurovision Research Network, said the contest was first set up not to unite Europe in song but to test the scope of new broadcast technology. She said the EBU needed content hence the team thought of a song contest.

2. Participants can include non-European nations

Participating countries must be from any member country of the EBU which also includes non-European nations. This year, the semi-finals were held in Vienna on May 19 and 20, and the final will also be held there on May 23. As last year's winner, Vienna earned the automatic right to host and compete in the contest this year.

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The 20 final countries will be joining the Big Five countries who automatically qualify - Spain, Italy, France, the UK and Germany as well as newcomer Australia.

Reports say the Big Five are the biggest financial contributors to the contest. Eurovision 2014 was held in Copenhagen, Denmark and reportedly cost about €30 million (S$44.6 million).

3. Australia's Guy Sebastian

The Eurovision song contest is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and the organisers invited Australia to participate. The contest has had a cult following Down Under for many years, and Australia has been given a one-time invitation to participate, even though it is not a member of the EBU.

2003 Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian is representing the country. His song - Tonight Again - has a slight Bruno Mars feel to it.

4. Drag Queen Conchita Wurst won Eurovision 2014

Bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst aka Thomas "Tom" Neuwirth won the contest last year, singing Rise Like A Phoenix. She became an overnight inspiration and advocate championing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

Although there have been gay and transgender contestants before, Wurst was the first beard-sporting drag queen on the stage. The singer has gone on to grace magazine covers and international runways.

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5. Famous names

Some of the biggest pop stars in the 20th century have found the Eurovision song contest to be a great springboard to bigger careers. Canada's Celine Dion, Sweden's ABBA and Ireland's Johnny Logan became famous thanks to the competition.

The show has also attracted other famous performers such as Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck.

Eurovision is set to air on BBC Radio 2 on May 23 at 8pm (May 24 at 3am in Singapore). You can listen live via www.bbc.co.uk.

kchitra@sph.com.sg

Sources: Billboard, CNN, Mirror UK, The Guardian, Euronews, Telegraph UK, Huffington Post UK