A chaotic build-up to Eurovision’s final approach

  • By Mark Savage
  • Music Correspondent, BBC News

image caption, Eden Golan, who will represent Israel at the tournament, is locked in his hotel room when he is not on stage

The Eurovision Song Contest has seen a chaotic build-up to Saturday’s grand final.

A Dutch entry was disqualified, another walked out of rehearsals and a third broke the rules by speaking on stage with a call for silence.

Two other former contestants have withdrawn from announcing the jury scores for their countries.

The drama unfolds by the minute against the backdrop of protests over Israel’s participation in the event.

Thousands of Palestinian marchers gathered in Malmö, Sweden, where the match will be held on Saturday.

Some chanted „Eurovision united by genocide”, reflecting the strength of the feeling of the humanitarian toll of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, sparked by deadly Hamas attacks last October.

Eurovision, which has always claimed to be apolitical, has resisted calls to exclude Israel from the competition.

However, they demanded that country artist Eden Colon change the lines of her entry titled Hurricane to remove references to the October 7 attack.

image source, Johan Nilsson/TT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

image caption, This week there were pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protests in Malmö

Golan, who is only 20 years old, is under armed guard as he prepares to sing in the competition, with heavy security throughout the host city.

Several contestants have emphasized their opposition to the Israel-Gaza war, although none have opted out – opting for Eurovision’s slogan „united by music”.

„Everybody, I have something to say,” he told the audience. „Every artist here wants to[s] Sing about love and sing about peace. We must be united by music, yes, but also by love for peace.

„United by music, yes, but also by a love of peace,” he repeated. „Thank you very much. Thank you Europe.”

The statement itself may have breached Eurovision’s rules on making political statements.

The BBC has contacted the EBU, which organizes the competition, to see if Slimane will be allowed.

image caption, Slimane is a multi-million selling artist in his homeland

Earlier, Irish contestant Bambi Tuck pulled out of the dress rehearsal altogether after raising complaints about their performance on Israeli television.

The non-binary singer said comments made during coverage of their performance in Tuesday’s semi-finals violated competition rules.

Israeli television station KAN noted the „controversy” over Bambi Duk’s song, whose lyrics refer to witchcraft and the occult, and later noted that the artist „spoke negatively about Israel.”

„But we can talk about that later,” said their commentator. „Prepare your curses.”

The comment may be a reference to a line in Bambi Tak’s song where they put a hex on an ex-boyfriend, but the singer felt it crossed a line.

„I am angry that other teams are breaking their EBU rules and are still allowed,” they told RTÉ News in Ireland.

„Hopefully the EBU will address it properly.”

In a statement on Instagram, Bambi Thak said they were „patiently waiting to hear what action the EBU is going to take following this rule-breaking” and „we hope to see you on stage tonight”.

In response, a spokesman for Israeli broadcaster Khan told the PA: „Good luck to everyone tonight.”

The organizers of Eurovision said that the singer missed the dress rehearsal „due to a situation that is currently under discussion with the EBU and the organizers of the song contest. This will be resolved soon and Bambi Gunter will appear in the Grand Final. Show as planned”.

image caption, Bambi Thug’s performance drew criticism from some sections of Irish society for its occult references.

Separately, Dutch contestant Joost Klein was kicked out of the competition after an incident backstage on Thursday.

Swedish police were accused of intimidation by a female member of the production team.

Police said Klein was later interviewed for making „unlawful threats” and that the case „will go to the prosecutor in a few weeks.”

Eurovision organizers said „it would not be appropriate for him to continue in the competition” while the legal process took place.

In a statement, Dutch broadcaster AvroDros said Klein was filmed backstage as he „repeatedly indicated” he didn’t want to be.

„This led to a threatening movement from Joost towards the camera. Joost did not touch the cameraman,” they added, calling the decision to disqualify him „too heavy and disproportionate”.

image caption, Eric Saade wore a pro-Palestinian protest symbol during Tuesday’s semi-final.

Norwegian media reported that their jury spokeswoman Alessandra Mele had left, citing the „inflamed atmosphere” in Malmö.

The singer represented Norway last year with Queen of Kings and placed fourth.

In an Instagram video, he said: „United by music – the motto of Eurovision – music is the reason for bringing people together. But at the moment, those are just empty words.”

A spokesperson for the Finnish jury has also resigned, writing on Instagram that it was „not right” to announce the country’s points.

Karija, runner-up in last year’s contest, also left, writing: „I have decided not to take part as a spokesperson for the Finnish jury at tonight’s Eurovision final.

„Awarding points is not correct.”

There were unconfirmed reports that several participants skipped the „flag parade” sequence of Saturday’s dress rehearsal.

It usually marks a bumpy start to a carefree and kitsch celebration of European music.

The EBU remains vigilant about political statements made during live broadcasts, which are watched by more than 160 million people worldwide.

But during the semi-finals, subtle messages have already aired.

During Tuesday night’s show, Sweden’s 2011 Eurovision winner Erik Saad performed in the halftime slot with a Palestinian keffiyeh wrapped around his wrist.

The musician, who is half-Palestinian, had previously slammed the EBU’s decision to ban Palestinian flags from the arena alongside flags of non-competing countries.

The EBU said it „regretted” Sade had chosen to „compromise the non-political nature” of the competition.

Meanwhile, some members of the audience booed and turned away Israel’s contestant after he sang his song on Thursday.

Italy’s contestant Angelina Mango told the BBC there was „a lot of tension” backstage.

The controversies make it „hard to be in the present and enjoy every moment,” he added, „but I don’t want to lose my instinct for peace in music and in everything.”

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