Eurovision 2022 is upon us as artists from across the continent compete for victory in Turin, Italy. The UK could be on course for success this year as Sam Ryder has been placing high on the expected rankings at this year’s contest. He found fame posting covers on social media site TikTok, and is now hoping to write his name in the history of British music with a first place finish tonight. The UK has won the Eurovision Song Contest five times, and has also finished second a record 15 times.
However, Britain could have swept up a sixth win if it wasn’t for a bizarre competition in 1968, when Spain pipped the UK to first place thanks to an allegedly rigged vote.
This is what was claimed in a film called ‘1968’, released in 2008.
At the time, the film’s director Montse Fernandez Vila said: “I lived the Spanish May, Franco was determined to claim Eurovision glory for his own country.
“The investigation, which is due to be broadcast shortly, details how El Generalísimo was so keen to improve Spain’s international image that he sent corrupt TV executives across Europe to buy goodwill in the run-up to the contest.”
Spain won the competition that year with its song, ‘La, la, la”, beating Sir Cliff Richard to the number one spot.
Montse Fernandez Vila, later told the Spanish news website Vertele that the win “was fixed”.
She added: “It’s in the public domain that Televisión Española executives travelled around Europe buying series that would never be broadcast and signing concert contracts with odd, unknown groups and singers.
“It was these bought votes that won Eurovision for Massiel. The regime was well aware of the need to improve its image overseas.
“When you look at all the parties they organised and how Massiel was transformed into a national heroine, you realise it was rather over the top for a singing competition. It was all intended to boost the regime.”
In a 2008 interview in the Guardian, Sir Cliff reflected on being denied Eurovision victory by a solitary point, and also discussed the claims of the fixed vote.
He said: “I’ve lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said: ‘Cliff, you won that darn thing after all.’
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“If, like they say, they believe there is evidence that it was I that was the winner, there won’t be a happier person on the planet.
“It’s never good to lose, never good to feel a loser. When I went on that night I said to the band: ‘Look guys, there will be 400 million people watching, it will be a massive plug for our song.’ And it was. I think we sold a million singles. But we really wanted to win.”
Although he conceded that opening an official investigation into the rigged vote “might not be worth the trouble”, the belated verdict would mean a lot to him.
He continued: “I’d be quite happy to be able to say I won Eurovision ’68. It’s an impressive date in the calendar these days.”
Sir Cliff also remembered how the Spanish song of choice was controversial that year due to political tensions in Spain.
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He recalled: “La La La was controversial from the start as it was originally to be performed in Catalan, but Franco wouldn’t allow it, so the woman who eventually sang it was only brought in at the last minute.
“The more obvious answer for the landslide of votes from Germany, the penultimate country to vote for Spain, which tipped the result Massiel’s way is – rather boringly – she went on a really popular German TV show the week before the contest to perform her song.
“Still, if it means Blighty can somehow get win number six from all this digging, I certainly won’t complain.”