Eurovision 2019: The best gaffes, blunders and awkward moments from the song contest’s hosts

Joe Sommerlad

The 2019 Eurovision Song Contest takes place on Saturday 18 May at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds in Israel.

One of the joys of the competition over the years has been the many gaffes and blunders to strike the show, a major peril of live broadcasting.

From performers falling over to quite literal mic drops, technical hitches, blackouts and backing track fails, the Grand Final in particular is fraught with potential embarrassment, much of which leaves the presenters badly exposed.

In 1981, Irish host Doireann Ni Bhriain was unable to reach Yugosalvia’s spokeswoman, Helga Vlahovic, when contacting her for their scorecard and was left to pick up the pieces when Ms Vlahovic suddenly appeared on the line to admit: “I don’t have it!”

Sweden’s Lill Lindfors famously snagged her dress on the set in 1985, dropping jaws across the continent as she stood there in her underwear before apparently improvising a solution and carrying gamely on to the podium.

Scoring errors struck again in 2003, when Spanish spokeswoman Anne Igartiburu awarded an ineligible nine points to Romania and in 2013 when Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landrut, calling from a rainy Hamburg, gave 10 to Norway rather than Denmark, shielding her blushes behind an umbrella when she realised the mistake and apologising frantically by saying: “I’m so nervous!”

Russia’s Natalia Vodianova and Andrey Malahov were not invited back to host the 2009 final in Moscow after an uproarious display of tipsy, innuendo-laden flirting in the semis, nor was the German commentator who shouted “F***ing hell!” when surprised by an unexpected firework display in Copenhagen in 2014.

Of course Eurovision’s true master of ceremonies remains the late Sir Terry Wogan, never better than when slaying Estonian hosts Annely Peebo and Marko Matvere in 2002 after a syrupy duet: “You know, at the end of the day, there’s a lot to be said for the commercial break...You got off lightly! Marko also plays the accordion you know!”

Known for his devastatingly droll work on commentary duties, Sir Terry hosted the 1998 contest in Birmingham alongside TV personality Ulrika Jonsson.

Ulrika Jonsson and Terry Wogan warming up for the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest (Tony Larkin/Rex)

She proved the perfect foil for the veteran, gently mocking the old smoothy for his questionable spoken French and taking compliments from a lovestruck Hungarian with good grace – only to then drop the ball spectacularly.

Interviewing Dutch spokeswoman Conny van den Bos, the latter reminded the presenter that she knew how the contestants felt having entered Eurovision herself in the past. “A long time ago, was it?” Ulrika replied, to audible gasps.

The Netherlands were also involved in one of the most excruciating moments in the contest’s history in 2006 when spokesperson Paul de Leeuw, speaking with hosts Maria Menounos and Sakis Rouvas in Athens to deliver his scores, remarked that they resembled the American sitcom characters Will and Grace – to a deathly silence.

He then offered to give his mobile number to Mr Rouvas who guessed that it must be “696969”.

Danish presenter Soren Pilmark, who dropped the trophy and smashed it in 2001 as his stunned co-host Natasja Crone Back looked on, making matters worse by muttering “Sh*t!” loudly into his microphone.

The hosts these days are, for the most part, much slicker.

Finns Jaana Pelkonen and Mikko Leppilampi memorably picked comedian Krisse Salminen – in the guise of a starstruck fan – out of the audience to serve as their green room reporter and invited Father Christmas in to hand over the trophy to Serbian winner Marija Serifovic.

The segway skits are often as awkward as the performances they appear between but Swedish hosts Petra Mede and Mans Zelmerlow managed the near-impossible feat of being genuinely funny in Stockholm in 2016.

The pair opened their arms and shouted “Welcome Europe!” only for the Swedish rock band Europe to appear behind them launching into their famous hit “The Final Countdown”, a joke they inevitably called back to later when the time came to look at the scoreboard.

They were risque and self-aware, joked about the pressure to avoid carbohydrates and stay thin, hung out with Justin Timberlake and even joined a River Dance chorus line.

One of the weirdest events from last year was Macedonian entrant Jana Burceska receiving a proposal from her boyfriend Alexander.

Let’s hope Israeli presenters Erez Tal, Bar Refaeli, Assi Azar and Lucy Ayoub don’t have to deal with anything as nauseating as that this time around.