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Zelenskyy says Ukraine will host Eurovision 2023 as Kalush Orchestra triumph in Turin

Contest oganisers the EBU will begin planning with Ukraine but say there are “unique challenges involved”.

Kalush Orchestra
Kalush Orchestra
Image: Luca Bruno

Updated May 15th 2022, 9:50 AM

Daragh Brophy reports from Turin, Italy: 

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelensky has said his country will host the Eurovision next year after folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra romped home as winners of the contest in Turin.

The group, who as men of fighting age had to be given special dispensation to leave the country for the event, had long been considered favourites to claim the top prize. Speaking after their victory, they confirmed they had been told they must return home tomorrow.

Their song Stefania – a plaintive mix of hip-hop and traditional music – had lagged behind the UK, Sweden and Spain after the jury votes were awarded at the Pala Alpitour arena. 

However as the televotes from across Europe (and Australia) were read out it soon became apparent that the Ukrainians would emerge as winners. 

Eurovision voting is split 50:50 between the national juries – who cast their votes on Friday night following the second dress rehearsal – and viewers, who had their say during a 15 minute voting window after the final performance of the Grand Final.

The awarding of 439 points from the public vote put Ukraine out of reach of the other competitors. Sam Ryder clinched second place for the UK – the country’s highest placing in the contest since 1998, with Spain and Sweden close behind.

Source: Eurovision Song Contest/YouTube

In the usual course of events, whoever wins the Eurovision also wins the right to stage the contest the following year.  

In his statement last night congratulating the Kalush Orchestra, President Zelensky said his country would host the contest – adding: ”We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt!”

A statement from the contest’s European Broadcasting Union supervisor Martin Österdahl was less definitive – while noting that his organisation would now begin planning for next year’s contest with Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC, he added:

“Obviously, there are unique challenges involved.”

However, as in any other year, we look forward to discussing all the requirements and responsibilities involved in hosting the competition with UA:PBC and all other stakeholders to ensure we have the most suitable setup for the 67th Eurovision Song Contest.

Speaking to The Journal before the contest Director General of the EBU Noel Curran wouldn’t be drawn on what might happen if Ukraine won but stressed that a similar process took place every year. 

We have milestones of criteria that have to be met by anyone in terms of where it’s going to be – venue, financing, safety – across all of these issues. 

While it’s arguably a little early to predict what might happen next year, the rules around Australia’s particulation in the song contest may provide a guide to organisers on a way forward: mostly due to the time difference, Australia wouldn’t be allowed to host the contest in the event that it won the Eurovision and would instead be asked to nominate a country in Europe as co-host.

Given the positive diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the UK at the moment – not to mention that the UK finished in second place in last night’s contest – it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that we could see the Eurovision staged there next year.

At a post-show press conference Ukrainian frontman Oleh Psiuk said his country would be happy to host Eurovision next year in a “happy and integrated Ukraine”.

Asked about his plans for the future and whether he would be joining the war effort after heading home, Psiuk said he wasn’t sure what lay ahead “because I’ve never won the Eurovision Song Contest before” – adding that like all Ukrainians he was ready to fight.

There had been speculation, earlier in the night, that the group might end up being disqualified from the contest due a rule banning any political statements during the broadcast.

“Help Ukraine, help Mariupol, help Azovstal now,” Psiuk had exhorted to the arena crowd and an estimated live TV audience of up to 200 million at the close of their performance.

The Ukrainian government remains locked in talks with Russia to secure safe passage for 38 badly wounded fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in the city. A further 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are trapped in tunnels beneath the steel works.

Speaking at the press conference, Psiuk said he’d made the comments in the hope of raising awareness of the fighters’ plight. He was happy to take the risk of being disqualified from the contest if it meant he could help, he added.

Earlier in the night, a spokesperson for Eurovision confirmed that organisers were regarding the comments as humanitarian rather than political.

Several other performers expressed their solidarity with Ukraine during the contest – some making short statements on stage. The marathon show began with choruses of John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance echoing around the arena.

Ukrainian flags and t-shirts have been popular among non-Ukrainian fans around the song contest venue in recent days.

Yellow wolf-themed hats celebrating Norway’s novelty entry Subwoolfer have also been a hit among the Eurovision faithful in Turin this week.

Their song, which has become a viral hit, didn’t feature in the shake-up for the top prize last night – finishing in the number 10 slot.

Serbia’s earworm entry – featuring a catchy handclap chorus and a performance that involved handwashing, white towels and dancing monks – finished in fifth place.

Moldova’s step-dancing folk stomper – another big hit with the fans in Turin this week – had a creditable top ten finish coming in seventh, just behind Italy.

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Juries out 

“Irregular voting patterns were uncovered” in the results of six national juries after Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal for the contest’s second semi-final the following night, the EBU announced in a statement as voting took place during last night’s show. 

The results from those juries weren’t used for either show, with organisers instead using a fallback system to calculate a substitute aggregated result for the performances in the two events based on results of other countries with similar voting records.

“The EBU takes any suspected attempts to manipulate the voting at the Eurovision Song Contest extremely seriously and has the right to remove such votes in accordance with the Official Voting Instructions, irrespective of whether or not such votes are likely to influence the results and/or outcome of the voting,” the statement added. 

Ireland’s Brooke Scullion exited this year’s Eurovision at the semi-final stage on Thursday night. A full breakdown of the results from that contest has since been released by organisers and shows she finished five spots out of the qualifying places – 15th out of 18 competitors on the night.

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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