Politics pushes its way into Eurovision as final acts announced ahead of showpiece

Entertainment

Politics has thrust its way into this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, with several of the finalists referring ongoing global disputes while speaking about their progression into the final stage of the competition.

Latvian act Dons, whose song Hollow is about insecurity, was the first to use his platform to shine a light onto the troubled geopolitical landscape.

Latvia's Dons. Pic: Corinne Cumming/EBU
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Latvia’s Dons. Pic: Corinne Cumming/EBU

Appearing at a news conference following the selection of the final 10 acts on Thursday, he responded to a question from Latvian media asking him, “What was your message tonight?” by saying: “Today was a special day in my life. I’ve never been so proud to be part of the Latvian nation.

“Latvia is the only country in the world that is in the shape of a butterfly. Butterflies symbolise hope and freedom because to be a butterfly you have to fly and you have to be free. Every country in the world deserves to be free.”

He received a loud round of applause within the room.

The competition – which is the largest music contest in the world – is taking place against the backdrop of two wars, with ongoing fighting in both Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in 2022 and in Gaza due to the Israel-Hamas war.

Isreal has made it into the Eurovision semi-final, despite large-scale protests across Malmo. Pic: Reuter
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Isreal has made it into the Eurovision semi-final, despite large-scale protests across Malmo. Pic: Reuters

Russia has been banned from the contest for the last two years, with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) saying it was removed from the competition after repeatedly using its broadcasting channels as a tool for political propaganda.

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This year tensions have been running high, with people calling for Israel to be banned from the contest due to actions in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

However, the EBU has said that unlike Russia, Israel has not broken any broadcasting rules and so will remain in the show.

A Pro-Palestinian demonstration ahead of the second semi-final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo
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A Pro-Palestinian demonstration ahead of the second semi-final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo. Pic: AP

Pro-Palestine groups held large-scale protests across Malmo, Sweden – the host city – as the second semi-final took place today.

Security is high around Malmo, and extra police have been drafted in from neighbouring Denmark and Norway.

Speaking at the end of the briefing, Eden Golan – who will compete for Israel in the grand final – was asked by Polish radio’s Newsletter whether she thought she was causing a security risk for other participants by attending the event.

The moderator of the conference, Swedish presenter Jovan Radomir, told Golan she didn’t have to answer the question if she didn’t want to.

The 20-year-old singer responded by saying: “I think we’re all here for one reason, and one reason only. And the EBU is taking all safety precautions to make this a safe and united place for everyone. And so, I think it’s safe for everyone or we wouldn’t be here.”

Her response was also met with a round of applause.

Following Israel’s progress into the final stage, their betting odds have shot up, putting them in second place to win.

Israel's Eden Golan with Hurricane for Israel. Pic: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU
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Pic: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU

Golan was also asked what the most difficult part of her performance was and answered: “I wouldn’t say any part is difficult. I enjoy performing, my everything is performing.

“I feel like I was born for this, and I was given a gift from God to share and make people feel something and touch people’s souls. And this is exactly what I’m doing.

“Of course, there’s stress and nerves and excitement and many, many things around and thoughts. But at the end of the day, I’m very focused and I go on stage and just try to forget about everything around me and give my all and enjoy my time and for what’s next. This is just the beginning.”

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Israel performs at Eurovision semi-final

She performed her song Hurricane dressed in a white dress, flanked by five backing dancers and centred around a large wheel-like prop in the centre of the stage.

During a rehearsal earlier in the week, Golan was met with boos and cries of “Free Palestine”, and an audience member appeared to have a Palestinian flag removed from them in the auditorium.

She has previously said she hopes to unite people through music, echoing Eurovision’s motto, “united by music”.

Netherlands act Joost with Europapa. Pic: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU
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Netherlands act Joost. Pic: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU

The moto was also the theme of a question directed at Netherlands act Joost Klein, who was asked, “Do you think that your song can unite us all by music?”

The 26-year-old performer quickly responded: “That’s a good question for the EBU.”

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His song Europapa – one of the biggest earworms of the show and described by one critic as “so bad” it will “put you off music forever“.- is a favourite to win.

Meanwhile, Greek act Marina Satti inadvertently wandered into dangerous ground when answering one of her questions.

Greece's Marina Satti. Pic: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU
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Greece’s Marina Satti. Pic: Sarah Louise Bennett/EBU

She jokingly answered, “world peace”, when asked about the relevance of tourism in her song’s video, before realising that she could be seen to be referring to the current state of contentious geopolitics.

The 37-year-old singer quickly explained: “I’m kidding. No, it’s just because, such questions [are usually] in the beauty contests, usually world peace is the answer. Sorry. Cringe. Sorry, sorry, sorry.”

Hollywood actress Malin Akerman and Swedish comedian Petra Mede are the hosts of this year’s shows – which culminate in a grand final on Saturday when 26 countries will battle it out for the coveted Eurovision glass trophy.

Sky News will be in Malmo with updates, a live blog, and all the biggest news from the contest as it happens.

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