All you need to know about Switzerland at Eurovision

All you need to know about Switzerland at Eurovision

Fans of glitz, glamour and vibrant colour will be given a real treat this weekend with the arrival of the Eurovision Song Contest final. To celebrate the event, here is the history of Switzerland at Eurovision, how the alpine nation was instrumental in getting the contest started, and crucially, whether the country has a chance of winning this year.

What is the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC)?

Every year since 1956 (apart from 2020 due to the COVID pandemic) the Eurovision Song Contest has captivated and entertained the people of Europe and fans across the world. The ESC is organised by the European Broadcasting Union and is meant to be a contest of which country can produce the catchiest, highest-quality song possible. 

The original organisers saw Eurovision as a way for broadcasters across Europe to cooperate on putting on a world-famous programme that would be shown across the continent, having first successfully worked together to broadcast the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The name Eurovision was sourced from British journalist George Campey, who used the term to describe a BBC show being aired on Dutch television for the first time in 1951.

In the last few decades, Eurovision has developed a strong following in Europe and around the world - 162 million people tuned into the semi-finals and final in 2023. Since the 1990s, the competition also developed a strong fanbase within LGBTQ+ communities, with many Eurovision winners being members of the group - it is sometimes affectionately known as the "Gay Olympics".

How does Eurovision work?

In the competition, each participating country submits a single song which is then performed at the contest. The performance and song are then rated by judges from each participating country, with each then awarding their 10 favourite songs points - one through eight, 10 or 12 points. Today, half of the points are also assigned via a public vote submitted by landlinemobile phone or by using the app.

Two semi-finals are held before the highest-rated nations - and the “Big Five” countries that get a buy-in due to their financial contributions to the competition - participate in the grand final. For 2024, Eurovision fans will converge on the Swedish city of Malmö from May 7 to 12, with 37 different countries participating. 

Switzerland at Eurovision: A history

While Switzerland is not part of the “Big Five” who get a buy-in to the final every year - Germany, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Spain - the alpine nation has a long and esteemed history in the contest. Here’s what you need to know:

First Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Switzerland

Interestingly, the very first Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation in Lugano on May 24, 1956. The inaugural competition saw 14 countries enter with two songs each, with Switzerland’s song Refrain by Lys Assia taking the first-ever title:

Video: SRF 3 / YouTube

After second-place finishes in 1963 (T'en va pas, Esther Ofarim) and 1986 (Pas pour moi, Daniela Simons), and a bronze medal performance in 1961 (Nous aurons demain, Franca di Rienzo), Switzerland would win the contest again in 1988. At the event in Dublin, none other than Celine Dion dazzled the judges with her song Ne partez pas sans moi:

Video: Library of Eurovision / YouTube

Switzerland stumbles at Eurovision since the 1990s

Following Dion’s win, the competition was held in Lausanne in 1989. Sadly, other than a third-place finish in 1993 (Moi, tout simplement, Annie Cotton), Switzerland has since failed to make a splash in the competition, having only registered four top 10 finishes since 1993. Since the early 1990s, the alpine nation has also failed to score points twice and placed last in finals in 1998 and 2011.

What are Switzerland's chances at Eurovision this year?

So what are Switzerland’s chances at Eurovision in 2024? Rapper and singer Nemo, from Biel / Bienne in Canton Bern, is due to rock the stage with their song The Code. A synth, pop, rap and sometimes operatic romp, it can be described as the contest’s essence compressed into three minutes. Nemo has told reporters that the song describes them coming to terms with non-binary identity, accepting that they don’t "feel like a man or a woman... I had to break a few codes":

Video: Eurovision Song Contest / YouTube

In what may give some hope to Swiss Eurovision fans, The Code has been warmly received by critics, and at one point was the bookies’ favourite to win. While it has dropped to second in the betting odds at the time of writing, everyone across Swiss cities and cantons will be hoping for the country’s first win since 1988 - 11 years before Nemo was even born.

Thumb image credit: Ben Houdijk /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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