Eurovision 2024: Malmö readies for grand finale amid political tensions

Malmö, Sweden, is bustling with excitement as it prepares for the Eurovision Song Contest's grand finale on Saturday, amidst heightened security due to political protests over Israel's participation.

Publication: 11.05.2024 - 12:48
Eurovision 2024: Malmö readies for grand finale amid political tensions
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This year, the 68th iteration of the contest coincides with the ongoing Israeli military actions in Gaza, which were triggered by a deadly attack by Hamas on October 7.

Eurovision, known for its lighthearted and transient pop songs, is facing serious political scrutiny. Protesters both online and on the streets of Malmö are calling for Israel's exclusion from the competition. Among the top contenders is Croatia’s Marko Purišić, known by his stage name Baby Lasagna, with his song "Rim Tim Tagi Dim," which tells the story of a young man seeking better opportunities in the city.

Israeli artist Eden Golan, 20, has also made it to Saturday's final with her song "Hurricane," positioning her as one of the favorites. Another favorite, Swiss rapper and singer Nemo, 24, will perform "The Code," a mix of drum-and-bass, opera, rap, and rock, reflecting his journey as a non-binary individual. High-ranking nations in the betting odds include France, the Netherlands, Italy, Ukraine, and Ireland, with streaming data also suggesting strong support for host nation Sweden.

The Eurovision Song Contest, the largest live music event in the world, has attracted an estimated 100,000 visitors to Malmö, Sweden's third-largest city. Millions more across Europe and beyond are expected to watch the broadcast. Despite calls to exclude Israel due to its military actions, Eurovision organizers have maintained the contest's non-political stance. However, they required Israel to modify the lyrics of its entry, which originally included references to the October 7 attack.

The revised lyrics allowed Israel to participate. Golan describes her song as a powerful ballad expressing a storm of emotions. Mixed reactions were evident during her semi-final performance, with both booing and applause reported by a Reuters journalist at the event.

In the lead-up to the semi-finals, over 10,000 pro-Palestinian activists, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, staged a peaceful protest in central Malmö. Meanwhile, a smaller group of pro-Israel supporters defended Golan’s participation in the contest. Additional protests are expected on Saturday, alongside an alternative music festival dubbed the "genocide-free song contest."

Controversy continued as protesters highlighted the double standards shown by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which banned Russia in 2022 following its invasion of Ukraine. Saturday's grand finale will feature 26 contestants, including the "big five" nations — Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain — along with the host country, Sweden.

Marcus Gunnarsen from the duo Marcus & Martinus, representing Sweden, emphasized that Eurovision aims to unite people and celebrate together, despite the underlying political tensions. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of ABBA's Eurovision victory, adding a historical note to the event.

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