Throwback to Belgrade – Eurovision 2008

“And heaven knows, just as I do, how many times I’ve repeated this. Heaven knows, just as I do, that your name is my only prayer. That your name is my prayer.” It’s with these phrases that the Serbian singer Marija Serifovic would finish her song “Molitva” on the Eurovision stage in Helsinki. This song would also get her the first position that year and would pass the next contest to Serbia. The Serbian victory was a very symbolic one as it was the 6th time within 8 years since the beginning of the new millennium that an eastern country would win the contest and host it. It also was the first and last time to date a former Yugoslav country would win the contest. Serbia is also the second country to win the contest on its debut year. The first country is Switzerland which won the very first edition of the contest in 1956.

In order to host the contest, the EBU and the Serbian broadcaster RTS cooperated throughout the hosting procedure and ended up choosing the Belgrade Arena as the official venue for the contest. The contest was set for the week of the 18th of May. That year the contest would have two Semi-Finals in distinguish of previous editions of the contest which had one Semi-final only. Those were set for the 20th and the 22nd of May with the Grand Final set for the night of the 24th of May. To host the shows, RTS chose the well known Serbian singer and songwriter Zeljko Joksimovic who was joined by Serbian television presenter Jovana Jankovic. The relation between the two would continue after the contest as they will become a couple and later on would tie the knot. The contest would be directed by Sven Stojanovic, a Swedish producer of Serb descent who is known for directing many of the Eurovision editions prior to the one in Belgrade as well as producing and directing multiple editions of the Swedish national final “Melodifestivalen”. Sandra Šuša was given the role of executive producer for that year.

The slogan for that contest was “The confluence of sound” which refers to Belgrade being the confluence of two European rivers, the Danube and the Sava. The logo chosen was a treble clef. It was designed by Boris Miljkovic.
The postcards had as a theme the creation of the flag of the upcoming performing country. Each postcard also included a short story related to the country and the people of the performing country. Additionally, each postcard had a letter written in the nation’s language and then sealed with a Eurovision logo stamp. In case of the Serbian postcard, the letter consisted of the phrases “Welcome to Serbia” and “Welcome to Belgrade” in multiple languages. The stage was designed with many elements of native identities, history and modern symbols. It also had the most modern technological features including some moving elements and LCD displays. The designer of the stage was David Cushing.

Each of the shows had its very own theme. The first Semi-Final had the theme of “City” as its main theme. The show opened with a panorama of the city of Belgrade 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 had as a main theme the theme of water. During the interval act, water formed the main colours of the stage. The Grand Final’s theme was “Confluence”.

A record-breaking number of 43 countries participated in this edition with Azerbaijan and San Marino debuting and with Austria withdrawing. Following the newly introduced two Semi-finals format, 19 countries competed in each of the Semi-Finals with only 10 countries qualifying from each of the heats. The 10 qualifiers were chosen based on the top 9 countries of the heat and an additional country chosen by the jury’s wildcard. In the first Semi-Final Poland was given the wild card and in the second it was Sweden. Greece and Ukraine won the first and second Semi-Final accordingly.

Similar to previous editions of the contest, that year saw the comeback of few artists: The winner of the 1998 Eurovision, Dana International came back as composer and lyricist of the Israeli entry “The Fire In Your Eyes”. Former Russian representative and well-known songwriter Philipp Kirkorov would come back to the contest as the co-writer of the Ukrainian entry “Shady Lady”. Roberto Meloni would come back to the contest as a part of Latvian band “Pirates Of The Sea” after representing the country as a part of Bonaparti.lv in 2007. Russian representative and runner up of 2006 Dima Bilan represented Russia in that edition. Sweden was represented by Charlotte Perelli who previously won the 1999 edition. Gisela came back to the contest representing Andorra after being a backing vocalist and dancer for Spain in 2002. In addition to hosting the contest, Zeljko Joksimovic would also compose the Serbian entry “Oro”.

25 countries competed in the final with all 43 countries being eligible to vote. No 0 points were recorded that year. In exception of San Marino, all countries gave their votes relying on 100% televote. The contest was won by Russia represented by Dima Bilan and his entry “Believe” with 272 points out of which 7 votes of 12 points which were all given by former USSR countries except for Israel which is known for having a big USSR diaspora. Armenia would obtain 8 sets of 12 points but would finish fourth. Although winning the Semi-Finals, Ukraine and Greece will end up in second and third positions accordingly. Host country Serbia would end up in 6th position with 160 points. This is the third-best record to the country to date. The United Kingdom finished last with 14 points. This marked another year where the bottom position would be given to a “Big 4” country. It would also be the first time the winner would be given the traditional microphone shaped trophy.

Watch the voting here:

Watch the Grand-Final here:

Do you have any memories from 2008? Share them with us here!

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