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The Eurovision Song Contest 1981 was the 26th edition held on 4 April 1981 at the RDS Simmonscourt Pavilion in Dublin and presented by Doireann Ní Bhriain.

Israel returned after its year off, but Italy did not participate this year due to lack of interest, and Morocco withdrew permanently, whilst Cyprus made its debut. SFR Yugoslavia returned to the contest after five years of absence. In 1981, the total amount of participating countries was 20 once again, equaling the record set three years earlier in Paris.

The opening sequence of the 1981 Contest showed 'old Ireland' blending into 'modern Ireland' with shots of Celtic ruins, cliffs, castles, edited together with close-ups of art and shots of planes, waterfalls, people in the park, children feeding birds, traditional door knockers, front doors, architecture and horse races. The sequence ended with a map of Europe on a globe which span round to reveal the 1981 logo.

During the voting, Doireann was having trouble connecting with the Yugoslavian jury, and when asked for their votes the spokesperson, Helga Vlahovic, commented "I don't have it".  This made for a comedic moment. Also, the scoreboard went awry part-way through with Ireland having over 300 points and nothing been added to France. That error soon resolved itself.

The United Kingdom won for the fourth time with the song Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz, beating Germany to the win by 4 points. Swiss participants Peter Reber, Sue Schell & Marc Dietrich participated for the fourth and final time and for the fourth time in a different language, this time in Italian.

Returning performers

Artist(s) Previous year(s)
Marty Brem 1980 (member of Blue Danube)
Tommy Seebach 1979
Maxi (with Sheeba) 1973
Jean-Claude Pascal 1961 (winner)
Björn Skifs 1978
Peter, Sue & Marc 1971, 1976, 1979
Cheryl Baker (with Bucks Fizz) 1978 (member of Co-Co)

Participants

Draw Country Artist Song Language Translation Place Points
01 IconAustria Austria Marty Brem Wenn du da bist German When you're here 17 20
02 IconTurkey Turkey Modern Folk Trio & Ayşegül Aldinç Dönme Dolap Turkish The carousel 18 9
03 IconGermany Germany Lena Valaitis Johnny Blue German -- 2 132
04 IconLuxembourg Luxembourg Jean-Claude Pascal C'est peut-être pas l'Amérique French It may not be America 11 41
05 IconIsrael Israel Hakol Over Habibi Halayla Hebrew Tonight 7 56
06 IconDenmark Denmark Tommy Seebach & Debbie Cameron Krøller eller ej Danish Curls or not 11 41
07 IconYugoslavia Yugoslavia Seid Memic Lejla Bosnian Leila 15 35
08 IconFinland Finland Riki Sorsa Reggae OK Finnish -- 16 27
09 IconFrance France Jean Gabilou Humanahum French -- 3 125
10 IconSpain Spain Bachelli Y sólo tú Spanish And only you 14 38
11 IconThe Netherlands The Netherlands Linda Williams Het is een wonder Dutch It is a wonder 9 51
12 IconIreland Ireland Sheeba Horoscopes English -- 5 105
13 IconNorway Norway Finn Kalvik Aldri i livet Norwegian Never in my life 20 0
14 IconUnited Kingdom United Kingdom Bucks Fizz Making Your Mind Up English -- 1 136
15 IconPortugal Portugal Carlos Paião Playback Portuguese -- 18 9
16 IconBelgium Belgium Emily Starr Samson Dutch -- 13 40
17 IconGreece Greece Yiannis Dimitras Feggari Kalokerino Greek Summer moon 8 55
18 IconCyprus Cyprus Island Monika Greek -- 6 69
19 IconSwitzerland Switzerland Peter, Sue & Marc Io senza te Italian Me without you 4 121
20 IconSweden Sweden Björn Skifs Fångad i en dröm Swedish Captured in a dream 10 50
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