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Winners and Losers From The Running Order Written by on March 30, 2013 | 12 Comments

Now we have the running order for the two semi-finals, the Eurovision world is going to take some time to pour over the schedule for a good six weeks, trying to work out who has been helped, and who has been hindered – and then we’ll do it all again in just forty hours when the Grand Final running order is announced at 3am on Friday 17th May, but that’s for later.

Keeping that in mind, we here at ESC Insight can already spot some broadcasters that will be very happy with where they are, and others will be wondering if their Ryanair flight can be switched to get an early flight home and save some money on the hotel bill. Let’s have a look at some winners and losers in the semi final running order.


San Marino

Everyone knows that nobody wins from second place. But this isn’t the Grand Final on the Saturday night, it’s the second Semi Final on Thursday night. All you need to do is get into the Top Ten. Short of opening up the show, if you are in the top half of the draw statistically you want to be singing second. The drop off in success after the first two spots on the order is rather dramatic. Frankly, this is San Marino’s best shot of qualifying for the Saturday night since their return to Eurovision.


Or perhaps that should be the viewing public? Yes, Romania have the traditional ‘pimp’ slot of closing the Contest. It’s not always a guarantee of qualification (as The Toppers found out in 2009), but with a challenging falsetto this gives Romania a chance to maintain their 100% qualification record. At the same time, nobody is going to tune out half way through the second semi final because of Cezar’s surprising performance. If the producer led construction of the running order was partly to help viewing figures, then here’s where it will have  a positive impact.


SVT have been kind to G:Son’s schlager powered Georgian entry. Three songs from the end of the second semi-final, with a song that can be described as  ‘what Europe thinks Eurovision should be about’, and half of the GDP of Georgia being spent on pyro should see the Caucas country through to Saturday night.


To be honest there were not many choices SVT could suggest to open up Eurovision, and it was going to be either Austria or Denmark (perhaps an outside bet of Slovenia). Natalia Kelly’s voice is great on the studio version of ‘Shine’ but was a touch weak in the National Final. Opening the Contest should allow the audiences to forgive any minor issues, and by the time the voting lines open only the power of the song will remain. ORF probably are the biggest winners of the whole running order.


The Netherlands

Denmark is a mid to fast tempo ethnic pop song. Russia is a mid tempo power ballad. Ukraine is a mid to fast temp West End musical number. And then you have ‘Birds’. History suggests that the majority of qualifiers in a semi-final will come from the bottom half of the running order. After a good ten minutes of uplifting music, The Netherlands is going to stick out like a poster of The Cure in the Smash Hits Rick Astley special. They only need to finish tenth to qualify… it’s going to be close.


On paper this should be a year for Ireland to qualify easily, but they’re following a rather challenging song from Moldova, with the silky smooth vocals of Cyprus following them. Conventional wisdom is that Ireland will stand out here, but up on how people choose songs to vote for, I’m not so sure. The changes between the three are quite jarring, and I wouldn’t rate Ireland at more than a 50/50 shot right now.


In a similar situation to Ireland in semi final 2 is Malta. Frankly anything coming after Finland’s manic ball of energy this year is going to look rather plain, and that might be Gianluca’s only hope, because his simple song about Jeremy in IT is not going to be powerful enough to stand out after Krista Siegfrids.


Actually I’m not sure how Armenia would have managed to get into the Winners sections this year. Israel before it is lyrically wonderful, and Hungary afterwards has an incredible male singing voice. All Armenia have is a very tenuous connection to Black Sabbath, and even then composer Tony Iommi is pretty sure everyone is going to slag the song off (even though he’s rather proud of it).

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (

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12 responses to “Winners and Losers From The Running Order”

  1. togravus says:

    “Frankly anything coming after Finland’s manic ball of energy this year is going to look rather plain.”

    Not plain but classy imo.

  2. Ewan Spence says:

    I think we’ll agree to disagree here!

  3. togravus says:

    I am pretty sure that we will see both Finland and Malta on Saturday again. Then we can go on ageeing to disagree for another two days … and forever after. 🙂

  4. Ewan Spence says:

    Exactly – isn’t ESC wonderful!

  5. Shevek says:

    After reading what you said about Ireland, may I assume that Cyprus and Moldova are also winners? Or somewhere in between?

    P.S.: just the fact the words winners and losers are being used alluding to countries is reason enough to bring the random draw back, imo.

  6. Zolan says:

    My impression was that the biggest loser is Estonia. You don’t think so?

    My prediction for the first 8 was:
    * Russia
    * Netherlands
    * Estonia
    Perhaps that was a bit too song-oriented rather than show-oriented for SVT.

    I also had:
    * Finland
    * Azerbaijan
    Which also seems a little more song-friendly than SVT’s order to me.

  7. ReneWiersma says:

    Congratulations to the SVT for making a running order that is as fair, balanced and neutral as it could be. I expected the favorites to be put in the obvious ‘pimp’ spots, such as Denmark first and Norway last, but they didn’t and it makes a lot of sense. Romania in last had me raising my eyebrows at first, but after some thinking that seems to make sense too.

    What I like about this running order is that it allows each entry to highlight its own strong points using the model of contrasting by genre and energy level. Yes, there are some songs that are better off than others, but since everybody seems to disagree about which songs those are, maybe it’s more balanced than we all think.

    For example, on the Dutch forums most people seem happy with 8th for Anouk, so perhaps it’s not as bad as you think? And a lot of people think San Marino got a rough spot, while you think it is one of the “winners” (I agree with you on this one though).

    Furthermore, one could argue that Denmark got a ho-hum spot, being in the middle of the first half, but then, with such a strong song, what does it matter?

    One of the songs that especially seems to be able to showcase its strengths with this running order is Cyprus, which will seem a breath of fresh air with it’s authentic, well-sung ballad between two fabricated pop songs by two average live singers.

    Another song that benefits from the chose running order is Latvia, which is a great opener, but could have easily got lost in the shuffle if it had to perform somewhere in the middle of the pack.

    Also, I think Malta performing after Finland is actually a great idea. Those who hate over-the-top stuff like Marry Me, will sigh a breath of relief when Malta’s light and breezy song comes on.

    A few of the songs that got the short end of the stick in my opinion are Hungary and Lithuania, but then again, it is hard to imagine these mid-tempo, mid-energy numbers doing really well from any starting position.

    All in all, it seems to me that this running order has a lot more “winners” and fewer “losers” then a random draw would have. By contrasting songs, it makes each of them stand out more. It’s a strong case for letting the production team decide the running order instead of having a random draw, but of course we will have to wait and see how it works in practice.

  8. howard a says:

    Sorry, Ewan, but my jaw dropped the floor when I read that “Hungary afterwards has an incredible male singing voice”. To me, he sounds as if they dragged someone in off the street and asked him to have a go . . . in spite of his streaming cold. We really will have to agree to differ on that one! As you say, isn’t Eurovision wonderful?

  9. Kevin says:

    I think this is a pretty good position for the Netherlands. If they were before the 3 favourites they could have been overshadowed by them. Now Anouk will perform after a probably over the top performance by Ukraine. I think Birds will stand out in a good way and will qualify with ease.

    Nothing can save Romania this year.

  10. Shai says:

    I am agreeing with Rene on the running order and even more agreeing with Kevin on Romania. There is a chance that televoters won’t be enough for them this year.

  11. Martin says:

    Do you think it’s actually impossible to dislike the Finnish entry?

  12. ReneWiersma says:

    Not to go na-na-na-na on you, but I do want to point out that two of your perceived winners of the running order did *not* qualify (San Marino and Austria) and all of your perceived losers *did* qualify. So perhaps running order does matter less than we all think, or the benefit and downsides of a particular running order are too complex to analyze beforehand.

    Also, there was much less griping about the running order than other years in my preception, and much less than what I expected given the fact that the running order was decided by the production team this year (“boohoo, Sweden hates us”).

    Of course, there’s still a final to come.

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