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Eurovision 2024. Nemo's bittersweet victory in the shadow of controversy

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Eurovision 2024 went down in history in a rather unusual way. Words of indignation and even anti-Israel demonstrations on the streets of Malmö, Sweden, turned out to be only the calm before the storm that broke out on Saturday, several hours before the grand finale. In all this, I feel a bit sorry for Nemo, whose hit “Code” won the 68th Eurovision Song Contest. – I hope that this competition can continue to fulfill its promise to stand for dignity and peace around the world – said Nemo, accepting the statuette.

Eurovision – or rather the Eurovision Song Contest – is traditionally supposed to be a great celebration of song. The European Broadcasting Network (EBU), which has been organizing the competition since 1956, has been emphasizing the apolitical nature of the event for decades. The 68th edition of one of the longest-running television programs in the world and the longest-running music competition on television in the world was held this year for the seventh time in history in Sweden. Specifically in Malmö, which was the host city for the third time. All thanks to last year's winning song “Tattoo”, performed by the representative of Sweden – Loreen.

From Sweden to Switzerland. Nemo's triumph

Traditionally, after the viewers' voting closes, the executive producer of the Eurovision Song Contest, Martin Österdahl, speaks to confirm that the voting went smoothly and that the results can be announced. This year, however, the audience greeted him with boos and whistles that continued throughout his speech. Österdahl was also booed during the reporting of the Dutch jury's voting results. Boos and whistles rang out during the call from the Israeli jury.

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After the jury voting results were announced in the 37 countries that took part in this year's edition, the Swiss song “Code” took first place (365 points). This was not the end of the emotions: after adding up the votes cast by the viewers, Israel was in the lead for a while, then Ukraine and Croatia. However, Switzerland received 226 points from the audience and thus won (scoring a total of 591 points).

Nemo wins EurovisionPAP/EPA/JESSICA GOW

This year's Swiss proposal “Code”, performed by Nemo, includes, among others, elements of opera, drum and bass and rap. The 24-year-old representative of Switzerland in Malmö is non-binary and does not use generic personal pronouns. They also prefer to have their name inserted into the sentence instead of a personal pronoun.

READ ALSO: The most popular songs of Eurovision 2024. List

Nemo caused a wave of admiration already during the national preselections. The co-producers of “Code” are Poles: Wojciech Kostrzewa and Nikodem Milewski. In Nemo's text, they included a personal journey they went through in the process of finding their own gender identity.

Nemo is also the first non-binary person whose song won the Eurovision Song Contest. “I hope this competition can continue to deliver on its promise to stand for dignity and peace around the world,” Nemo said as they accepted the statuette from Loreen.

Eurovision in the shadow of anti-Israel protests

This year's edition has become an ideal opportunity for Swedes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the victory of “Waterloo”, performed by ABBA during the 19th Eurovision Song Contest in Brighton, England. But this is not the only important anniversary in Swedish Eurovision history. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the victory of “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley” by Herreys in Luxembourg in 1984 and the 25th anniversary of the victory of “Take Me To Your Heaven”, sung by Charlotte Perrelli (née Nilsson) in Jerusalem in 1999. During the great show, its producers mentioned the Swedish victories many times and in various ways – even jokingly.

However, organizing this year's edition turned out to be a great challenge for the Swedes – and above all for the European Broadcasting Network. A wave of criticism and outrage was caused by the EBU's decision to allow the Israeli team to participate in the competition. Opponents of this decision believe that the EBU should exclude Israel from the competition due to the actions of this country's authorities in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is waging war against Hamas in response to the attack of this terrorist organization on Israel. The EBU rejected the first two song proposals submitted by Israel. Ultimately, it accepted the submitted song “Hurricane” performed by 20-year-old Eden Golan, forcing the authors to change the lyrics and title. The song was originally titled “October Rain” and was supposed to contain political references, including the Hamas attack on Israel.

Golan's participation sparked a wave of protests, including anti-Israel demonstrations on the streets of Malmö on Thursday and Saturday, ahead of the grand final in which the singer performed amid whistles and boos. Protesters against Israel's participation in this year's Eurovision drew attention to the double standards used by the EBU, recalling that the organization excluded Russia in 2022, after launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Eden Golan from Israel during the final performance. Eurovision 2024PAP/EPA/JESSICA GOW

Many artists participating in the competition have often publicly distanced themselves from the EBU's decision, appealing for peace in Palestine. However, the EBU itself has repeatedly appealed to all national teams to respect the apolitical nature of the event. The organizers informed that any form of political manifestation will be treated as a violation of the competition rules.

“United by music”? “Right now, these are just empty words.”

A few hours before the concert, information appeared that the people who were supposed to announce the jury voting results in Finland and Norway resigned from their positions. These are the two favorites of last year's competition: Kaarija from Finland, who took second place, and Alessandra Mele from Norway. Kaarija stated that he felt it was not appropriate for him to announce the Finnish score. Mele, in her published video, emphasized that “united by music – the Eurovision motto – causes music to unite people.” – But at the moment, these are just empty words. I am asking you all, open your eyes, open your hearts, let love lead you to the truth… Free Palestine, she emphasized.

One of this year's favorites, Italian Angelina Mango, told BBC News that the controversy over Israel's participation is causing “a lot of tension” behind the scenes and making it difficult for participants to “focus on the moment and enjoy every moment.” – I'm sad because this will be the last time I will appear on this stage. But I want to enjoy it, I want to have fun and I want to give everything to the audience, she added.

The favorite is disqualified. “His continued participation in the competition would not be appropriate.”

Even before the grand final, the EBU stated that Joost Klein, representing the Netherlands, was disqualified. “The Swedish police were investigating a complaint made by a member of the production team about the incident following his performance during Thursday's semi-final. As legal action is ongoing, his continued participation in the competition would not be appropriate,” the EBU said in a statement.

The 26-year-old, who delighted fans with his lively and very personal number “Europapa”, was considered one of this year's favorites. Foreign media reported that Klein's case is currently being handled by the local prosecutor's office. The Dutchman was interrogated but not detained. Reuters wrote on Saturday that it was unable to obtain a comment from Klein's representatives.

Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS issued a statement calling the EBU's decision “very serious and disproportionate.”

The Swedes are Eurovision champions

Despite a number of controversies that accompanied this year's Eurovision, the Swedes once again proved that, like few others, they can produce an amazing music show. Even in such an unfavorable atmosphere. It was interesting, fun and efficient.

Taking a look at the Eurovision productions of the last two decades, every year the organizers try to provide the audience and audience with the best possible entertainment. They also try to surprise and invite world-class stars (such as Justin Timberlake or Madonna). It is a permanent element that people important to the Eurovision audience are invited, including winners from previous editions. The Swedes chose the latter this year. One can only guess that for the over 11,000 audience gathered at the Malmö Arena, it was quite an experience to see live such Eurovision icons as: Helena Paparizou from “My Number One” (Greece 2005), Charlotte Perrelli from “Take Me to Your Heaven” (Sweden 1999) and Sertab Erener with “Everyway That I Can” (Turkey 2003). That's what happened on Thursday. During Saturday's concert, the following performed: Björn Skifs, who conquered the charts 50 years ago with the evergreen “Hooked on a Feeling”, and the band Alcazar with the song “Crying at the Discoteque”.

The three Eurovision winners: Carola (Sweden 1991), Charlotte Perrelli (Sweden 1999) and Conchita Wurst (Austria 2014) performed “Waterloo” by ABBA, which was preceded by a video recording of the Eurovision memories of the famous group. Finally, Loreen performed, presenting her new singles “Forever” and “Tattoo”.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/JESSICA GOW

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