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Eurovision

Sweden have won the Eurovision to equal Ireland's record of seven song contest wins

Hold me. Now.

Eurovision Song Contest / YouTube

SWEDEN HAVE BEEN named winners of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest following tonight’s grand final in Liverpool. 

Graham Norton and co-host Hannah Waddingham made the announcement at the Liverpool Arena in front of 6,000 fans and a global TV audience of around 160 million. 

Loreen’s Tattoo was a clear frontrunner from the start of the jury voting and her victory in the contest was confirmed as viewer votes were added.

Finland’s Käärijä – whose ‘Cha Cha Cha’ has been a huge hit with the fans this week – finished second, with Israel, Italy and Norway completing the top five. 

It means Sweden have now equalled Ireland’s record of seven wins over the history of the contest. 

Loreen – who also won back in 2012 with Euphoria - becomes only the second person after Ireland’s Johnny Logan to win two Eurovision titles, and the first woman to do so. 

Sweden win the right to host the contest next year, which also happens to be the anniversary of Abba’s famous 1974 win at the contest.

Norton and Waddingham were on hosting duties tonight alongside Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina.

26 countries from the wider European region (as well as Australia) were competing tonight – ten qualifying from each of the two weekday contests in addition to last year’s winners Ukraine and the so-called Big Five countries of the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy who automatically qualify.

The end of the grand final brings to a close a gruelling week for the presenters, crew and performers who, since Monday, have been involved in a near non-stop schedule of live rehearsals and ticketed non-broadcast shows as well as taking part in two televised semi-finals.

The UK hosted the contest on behalf of Ukraine and there were Ukrainian themes and touches throughout the show tonight in addition to Sanina’s presence as a presenter. 

However a request to address the contest by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was turned down by organisers the European Broadcasting Union, which said in a statement that it would be out of keeping with rules around political impartiality.

Ukraine’s act this year – the electro duo TVORCHI – posted on Instagram during the contest that their hometown of Ternopil had been bombed as they were performing in Liverpool. 

For the second year in a row, Russia was banned from taking part.

Eurovision Song Contest / YouTube

Ukrainian elements 

Kalush Orchestra – victors last year in Turin – kicked off proceedings tonight with a reimagined and rearranged version of their winning song, Stefania, featuring cameos from the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the UK’s 2022 runner-up Sam Ryder. 

The Olympics-inspired flag ceremony which introducing the acts featured classic British tracks from the likes of Fatboy Slim, S’Express and Eurythmics intercut with live performances from past Ukrainian Eurovision artists. 

Ryder – picked by the BBC as last year’s entrant after building up a massive following on TikTok during the pandemic – returned to the stage to lead the first interval act, accompanied by Queen’s Roger Taylor on the drums. 

A second mid-show sequence saw various familiar Eurovision faces perform a medley of classic songs associated with the host city, including – somewhat unexpectedly – Atomic Kitten’s You Can Make Me Whole Again. 

As ever the scoring section – helmed by Norton and Waddingham – seemed to go on longer than any other section of tonight’s show.

The weekday semi-final contests were decided solely by a public vote in a change to previous years, but as usual with the final each country’s final score was split 50:50 between votes from a professional jury and the watching audience. 

The jury votes were assigned first via a familiar video-call tour of European capitals (and Sydney) featuring the customary lineup of enthusiastic local hosts – a few of whom, in keeping with tradition, went on for far too long and verged on testing Norton’s patience. 

The viewer votes were then added – including, for the first time, ones from the ‘rest of the world’, which were combined and then counted as if they represented one single country. 

As usual producers set things up for a split-screen finish between Sweden and Finland, but in reality the Finn didn’t have a hope of catching up at that stage. 

1993 winner Niamh Kavanagh presented the Irish jury votes tonight, with Loreen getting the nod for Ireland’s 12 points. 

Ireland’s fate

The EBU are expected to release a full breakdown of the stats from the week’s competition later, so we’ll find out whether Ireland’s Wild Youth – who exited in Tuesday night’s semi-final – finished just outside the qualifying places or somewhere further down the leaderboard. 

The Dublin band’s early exit from the competition extended Ireland’s recent dismal spell at the contest. With one exception, the country has now failed to qualify for the final in every event held since 2013. 

As the nation’s public broadcaster, RTÉ is tasked with choosing and managing the Eurovision act each year. Speaking on Wednesday, the broadcaster’s head of delegation for the contest, Michael Kealy, said “chronic underfunding” was to blame

Responding to criticism of the level of investment in the contest and to calls to break the link between the domestic final and the Late Late Show, which currently hosts the Eurosong final, Kealy said the national broadcaster had been underfunded for decades.

“We do news and current affairs and sports and all sorts of other shows quite well, and very well in lots of cases.

“But when it comes to entertainment, you need scale to make it look as impressive as a show that you would see in other European countries. The truth is, our facilities in RTÉ aren’t sufficient to mount shows like that.”

wild-youth-the-entrant-from-ireland-performing-at-the-eurovision-semi-final-at-the-ms-bank-arena-in-liverpool-picture-date-tuesday-may-9-2023 Ireland's Wild Youth left the contest on Tuesday night. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Speaking to The Journal in Liverpool this week former RTÉ Director General and current head of the EBU Noel Curran said countries going through unsuccessful spells shouldn’t “lose heart”. 

“I can understand that and I wouldn’t say its a concern but it is something that we’re aware of,” Curran said.

“But again, the UK got zero points or very little points for so many years and then they came back … so things can turn around for everybody and there’s always that sense that things can turn around.

“We don’t see any signs that countries are saying, ‘we’re not qualifying, we’re going to withdraw’. The event is too big for that I think.”

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