The end of a decade: Riga 2003

The end of a decade: Riga 2003
The logo of Riga 2003
Riga, Latvia -

The year 2009 marks the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The last ten days of this year, looks back at the remarkable transition that the Eurovision Song Contest went through. We are also inviting you to share your memories with us, right here on the website as well as on Facebook. Today, we're looking back at the fourth Eurovision Song Contest of this decade: Riga 2003.

If it wasn't for Portugal rejecting the invitation to take part in the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest, Latvia would not even have participated in Tallinn. But they did, and Marie N took victory by surprise with the up-tempo latin tune I Wanna. After the excitement, Latvian broadcaster LTV realized the enormous task they were given. Behind the scenes, it was one of the most challenging runnings of the contest this decade. Executive Producer Arvids Babris saw himself being replaced by Brigitta Rozenbrika, who in the end produced the show with help of Swedish broadcaster SVT and Estonian broadcaster ETV. The Latvians managed very well in the end. The 48th running of the Eurovision Song Contest took place on 24 May 2003 at the Skonto Hall in Riga.

After the Estonians had success with the theme they picked, the Latvians chose the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest to be a Magical Rendez-vous. The Latvian costlines modeled for the logo of the event, which consisted of a number of circulair shapes.

The show

SVT brought in an enormous technical crew of some 80 people, and it was Swedish-Serbian director Sven Stojanovic who was in charge in the OB-van. He would do the job again in 2005 and 2008. The television show opened with a clay animation of Planet Latvia and the appearance of Renars Kaupers and Marie N, hosts of the show. Kaupers represented Latvia at the contest in 2000 with his band Brainstorm, Marie N won the competition for Latvia the year before. The opening of the show also featured a film about Riga and Latvia, and video link-ups with 1956 winner Lys Assia from Cyprus, with Elton John from Vienna and with the crew of the International Space Station, wishing all the contestants the best of luck.

For the first time since many years, the contestants themselves played a central role in the postcard videos that introduced the respective entries.

Sarah Yuen supervised the contest on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union for the first and last time.

The contestants

Originally, 25 countries were supposed to take part in Riga, but Ukraine was added to the list last minute. It would be the country's debute at the contest, and they had a clear goal of taking part once, winning it once and hosting it once. And that was exactly how it went as Ruslana would win the contest one year later, giving Ukraine the right to host the 2005 contest. But in 2003, Ukraine was by no means amongst the favourites.

Contestant-wise, 2003 was a remarkable year. Austria sent Alf Poier, a well-known comedian, with an awkward song promoting individualism. He was joined on stage by a number of cardboard characters. Russia appointed the world famous duo t.A.T.u. to represent them in Riga. The two girls, still pretending to be lesbian, announced to kiss on stage, but didn't after the EBU threatened to disqualify them. Belgium sent Urban Trad with the song Sanomi, which was sung in a fictious language.

Russia topped the polls, but they had tough competition of Belgium and Turkey during the voting. The last points, given by Slovenia, determined the winner; Sertab Erener from Turkey finished first, Belgium and Russia finishing second and third respectively with only 2 and 3 points less. Host country Latvia, represented by the trio F.L.Y. finished third last, the United Kingdom even finished last with zero points. The duo Jemini sang out of tune for a significant part of their performance.

The controversies

Alf Poier from Austria and the duo t.A.T.u from Russia were controversies on their own. Also the organisational problems of Latvian broadcaster LTV became headlines.

The development

For the first time ever, the green room was located right behind the stage on an enormous construction. After all 26 songs were performed, the green room was unveiled and the audience in the hall could actually see the contestants as the points came in.

Tomorrow, will look back at the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Istanbul.

There are 14 comments

Your comment is very welcome! Those not in line with the Terms of Use of this website will be removed by a moderator, and could lead to blocking your MyEurovision account. Reactions are only allowed in English and French.

Note that it can take a couple of minutes for your comment to appear here, it will appear immediately on your MyEurovision profile page
  • Posted on 4 January 2010 at 01:54
    Portugal was, again, one of the best this year! still, it wasn't enough to win. like always... what more can we do to prove that we deserve to WIN? :( report to the moderator
  • Posted on 28 December 2009 at 00:53
    This was my first Eurovision Song Contest.

    I didn't see it live, I saw it the next day, Sunday after going to the church. I was eight.

    My brother and I went to our friend's house and they told us that they had a video of a contest of European countries, and we started watching it.

    I don't remember many things but I remember for example that my friends were discussing about T.a.T.u, if they were lesbians or not. I also remebrer Claudia Beni's performance for Croatia, which I enjoyed a lot, and the last thing i remember is Alf Poier's song, and how much we laughed at him.

    This and, I don't know why, the 2006 contest are my favourites.

    My 10 favourites were:

    1- Turkey
    2- Sweden
    3- Belgium
    4- Russia
    5- Spain
    6- Iceland
    7- Slovenia
    8- Croatia
    9- The Netherlands
    10- Romania and France report to the moderator
  • Posted on 27 December 2009 at 17:50
    If it wasn't Portugal ha... Latvia owns us one ;)
    I haven't seen this Eurovision, so I cannot say anything else LOOL

    Rita, Portugal report to the moderator
  • Posted on 27 December 2009 at 15:10
    the best winner song ever. Sertap I love you! report to the moderator
  • Posted on 27 December 2009 at 07:27
    Ah this Eurovision is special for me because it was my first! i've to admit that i watched it because of t.A.T.u. because i loved their music, and after that Eurovision i couldn't stop! and now i'm an Eurofan :D also my sister became a fan too and she's worst than me now lol :) report to the moderator
  • Posted on 26 December 2009 at 20:05
    The stage was great. One of the best eurovision stage and I liked the idea with the greenroom behind the main stage.

    I remember the zero points for united kingdom. However I like the song and hear it until now. But their performance and their singing was terrible, so it was deserved. The only year with 26 participants and the 26th place went to UK ;-)) malicious glee and welcome to the club of zero points...

    My favorite that year was: Russia!!! report to the moderator
  • Posted on 26 December 2009 at 16:36
    i really felt that information about the contests of this decade was missing. I dont like to remember this years because i start crying :-) the stage of 2003 was like a dream. I really loved it report to the moderator
  • Posted on 26 December 2009 at 16:28
    I my opion, a real improvement in the songs quality. What a pitty that the Spanish Beth didn't enjoy her opportunity and her favourite role before the big night. Beth just criticised the song "Dime" every time she can. Other Spanish singer apparently enjoyed more than Beth the ESC 2003: Veronia Codesal. She was the lead singer of Urban Trad and obviously the 12 points from Spain went to Belgium. Turkish victory was really deserved after the extrange results of the previous years. Sertab's and Tatus' songs were very successful here in Spain. Also Austrian Alf Poier and UK's Jemini appeared many times on all Spanish media for obvious reasons. report to the moderator
  • Posted on 26 December 2009 at 00:22
    Aha! i agree, or 2003 or 2006 (my loveeeeeeeeely Greece <3) actually also 2008.... omg! so hard to choose :) report to the moderator
  • Posted on 25 December 2009 at 20:01
    My fav's from 2003..
    1. Spain
    2. Turkey
    3. Belgium :D report to the moderator
  • Posted on 24 December 2009 at 18:11
    This was my first ever Eurovision Song Contest.

    I remember very well, I wasent interrested in the contest.
    I was in Sweden with my mom, and we lived with some of her friends.

    Then she walked out a night, and leave'd me alone with some of them.
    While I was playing on the computer, they saw the ESC.

    When it was Romania's turn to perform then I got some interrest.

    I dont remember much of the songs, but I do only known who was the winner, and who represented Romania that year.

    and I was only 9 years old.

    So when I came home to Denmark, then the Romanian song was so popular on my school, I just heard the song all the time and saw some of the older girls dancing to the song.

    HAI ROMANIA!!!!!! report to the moderator
  • Posted on 24 December 2009 at 17:58
    In my opinion the second best Eurovision Song Contest eveer! report to the moderator
  • Posted on 24 December 2009 at 17:38
    sertab erener had done one of the best performances of eurovision song contest history.. report to the moderator
  • Posted on 24 December 2009 at 17:37
    It was absolutely one of the most impressive Eurovision editions just because that we didn't know the winner until the last 10 seconds of voting.O my god.I can never forget that feeling. report to the moderator