After debuting in the 1974 Contest, Greece did not participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 1975 for "unknown reasons" according to the EBU, but it was discovered that the withdrawal was in protest of Turkey's debut and its invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Greece was disqualified from the Eurovision Song Contest 1982 after it was revealed that Themis Adamantidis was to sing "Sarantapente Kopelies" (Σαρανταπέντε Κοπελιές), a previously released song. A known Greek folk song had been revised for the competition, but it violated the rules since all songs have to be original in terms of songwriting and instrumentation and cannot be cover songs. Greece was forced to pay a fine, and was allowed to return the following year. Had Adamantidis been allowed to perform "Sarantapente Kopelies", he would have appeared second at Harrogate. After returning in 1983, ERT decided that all of the possible songs were of "low quality" and decided not to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 1984.
Greece returned once again to the Contest in 1985, and Polina was picked in the 1986 national selection to represent Greece at the Eurovision Song Contest 1986 in Bergen, Norway, but ERT pulled out of the Contest unexpectedly. Polina stated that it was due to political troubles in Greece at the time, but she noted that a Eurovision website had learned that the real reason was that the Contest was to be held the night before Orthodox Easter. Had she performed, she would have appeared eighteenth and she would have performed the song "Wagon-lit".
Greece returned to the Contest in 1987 and performed each year until the Eurovision Song Contest 1999, when it as not permitted to participate because its five-year points average had fallen under the limit for participation after Thalassa's 20th place finish in 1998. The following year ERT announced that it would not return at the Eurovision Song Contest 2000 due to financial reasons.
Before Greece's win, the highest score was third place, achieved by duo Antique (of which Elena Paparizou was a member) in 2001 with "Die for You" and then again by Sakis Rouvas in 2004 with "Shake It". Greece's least successful result was at 20th place in 1998 with the song "Mia Krifi Evesthisia" (English, "A Hidden Sensibility") by Thalassa, which received 12 points in total, all from Cyprus.
From 2004 to 2006, ERT had selected high-profile artists internally and set up national finals to choose the song, while in 2007 and 2008 it held a televised national final to choose both the song and performer. For the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, ERT was able to secure a high-profile artist once again and planned a national final to choose the song.
Greece has been the most successful country of the Eurovision Song Contest after the introduction of the semi-final round in 2004. They had placed within the top-ten position after advancing into the finals every year since then: third in 2004, first in 2005, ninth in 2006, seventh in 2007, third in 2008, seventh in 2009, eighth in 2010 and seventh in 2011. However, this record was broken in 2012, when Eleftheria Eleftheriou only placed 17th place with her song "Aphrodisiac" in the finals. However in the televoting, Eleftheria did place in top 10 in the finals, she finished 9th with 89 points. Although Greece's luck came back in 2013 when Alcohol is Free finished in 6th place which means that the record was reopened.
"Cyprus and Greece are commonly accused of favouring each other and of all the countries, statistics suggest they are the most likely to vote for each other. Wogan seemed to sum it up when Cyprus awarded Greece 12 points in last year's contest. 'Over the years people say this is ludicrous [...] but still they do it. They just don't care.' "
Ruth Alexander, "The maths of Eurovision voting", BBC News
Greece is famous for, especially in recent years, always giving twelve points to Cyprus and always receiving twelve points from Cyprus. This is one of many examples of the block voting seen in contest which also occurs between Balkan, Scandinavian, ex-Soviet and Baltic countries. In the case of Greece and Cyprus, the exchange of twelve points is probably because the majority of Cypriot citizens are Greeks thus sharing linguistic ties (speaking Greek) and musical taste. Furthermore, Greece and Cyprus share the same music industry. Due to the controversies caused by political voting, two semi-finals were introduced for the 2008 Contest in which Cyprus and Greece were unable to vote for each other in the semi-finals. In the build-up to the 2008 contest, however, the artists representing Greece and Cyprus jointly held a successful warm-up party at the Euroclub, attended by 17 other delegations from the contest and 1500 guests attracted by the promised "confluence of the Greek-Cypriot sound".
Until 2001, Greece was seen as one of the least successful countries in the Contest, and therefore the interest of Greek people in the Contest was relatively low. Since Antique's third place in 2001, the contest has grown into one of the most popular events in Greece with an estimated five million viewers each year. The extremely high expectations of the Greek public has led to seeing the Contest as a "national affair" of very big importance, and this has caused controversy. The Greek viewers expect their singers to qualify from the semi-final to the final and place inside the Top 10, except from one 17th place: in 2012 for the first time since the introduction of the semifinals failed to place in the Top 10 in Baku. In 2013 Greece was again in top 10 finishing 6th. So far Greece has not missed any finals since the introduction of semifinals in 2004. They are also the second most successful country, behind Russia, in the contest between 2000 and 2009, with one win and three third places.
The following table lists the thirty-three entries which competed for Greece in the Eurovision Song Contest. Gold indicates a first place finish, silver a second place finish, and bronze a third place finish.
XX on the semi-finals denotes auto-qualification. This could be the result of one of the following two reasons; if a country had won the previous year, they did not have to compete in the semi-finals the following year. The other reason being that back in 2004-2007, the top ten countries who were not members of the big four did not have to compete in the semi finals the following year. If, for example, Germany and France placed inside the top ten with Spain and the United Kingdom finishing after 15th place, the countries who placed 11th and 12th were advanced to the following year's grand final along with the rest of the top ten countries.