Switzerland wins Eurovision song contest after controversial grand final

Switzerland has won the 68th Eurovision song contest, bringing to an end a fraught and at times tumultuous competition overshadowed by a row over Israel’s inclusion and the disqualification of the Dutch contestant just hours before the start of the grand final.

Swiss singer Nemo, who identifies as non-binary, had entered the night as the bookmakers’ third favourite, but saw off frontrunners Croatia and Israel with an enthusiastic performance of their song The Code.

The operatic, drum’n’bass-propelled offering was the runaway winner in the jury vote, which makes up half of the overall score.

The musical performances risked becoming a footnote at the world’s largest live music event, after Dutch contestant Joost Klein was disqualified from the grand final over what the organisers described as an “incident” involving a female member of the production crew.

The Dutch broadcaster who sent Klein to the competition said it was “shocked” by the “disproportionate” decision, and declined to hand out the points of its jury at the end of the show.

The suspension heightened an already politically charged atmosphere, since Klein had appeared to vent his disagreement with Israel’s presence at a press conference on Thursday, vocally backing a journalist who had asked Israel’s contestant, Eden Golan, if she thought her presence might endanger the other acts and the attending fans.

Israel had been cleared to compete by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in March, after changing some of the lyrics to Golan’s power ballad Hurricane, a song about the traumatic experience of Hamas’s massacre on 7 October, originally entitled October Rain.

But the question of whether Israel should be allowed to compete or not while engaged in a military conflict in Gaza continued to dominate the run-up to the five-day kitsch extravaganza in the Swedish city of Malmö, with pro-Palestine activists unsuccessfully urging participating artists to join their boycott.

At a large demonstration in Malmö city centre on Saturday, several thousand protesters with Palestinian flags proclaimed their view that Israel should not have been allowed to compete in the first place, citing Russia’s exclusion since 2022 as a precedent.

Some protesters later moved on to the concert venue south of the city centre, shouting “Shame on you” at fans entering the arena. About 30 people were detained by police.

Inside the arena, the boos were mostly drowned out by cheers as Golan took to the stage. Israel performed strongly in the public vote, coming second only to Croatia.

Eurovision’s organisers dismissed rumours that the incident relating to Klein’s suspension had involved any other performers or delegation members, or even an altercation with the Israeli delegation.

“Swedish police have investigated a complaint made by a female member of the production crew after an incident following his [Klein’s] performance in Thursday night’s semi-final,” they said, reiterating “a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate behaviour at our event”.

In a statement, the Dutch broadcaster Avrotros said it was “shocked” by the “disproportionate” decision, saying the singer and rapper had merely made a “threatening move” towards a camerawoman but not touched her.

“Against the clearly made agreement, Joost was filmed when he had just gotten off stage and had to rush to the green room. At that moment, Joost repeatedly indicated that he did not want to be filmed. This wasn’t respected.”

According to the broadcaster, it offered “several solutions” to the EBU, which decided to disqualify Klein anyway. Martin Österdahl, Eurovision’s executive director, drew loud booing from the audience whenever he appeared on the screen during the show.

While rumours about the reasons behind Klein’s suspension ricocheted around the dressing rooms at Malmö Arena, the mood turned febrile. Ireland’s entry, a non-binary singer called Bambie Thug, failed to show up at the final dress rehearsal, fuelling rumours of their pulling out of the event.

In a statement, they later said their absence was over a separate disagreement with EBU, relating to the conduct of Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, during the first semi-final.

The French performer, Slimane, interrupted the a cappella section of his song Mon Amour during the dress rehearsal to give a speech about “love and peace”.

In Norway, the country’s ex-contestant Alessandra Mele withdrew from her role as the spokesperson for delivering the jury points, over what she called the “genocide” in the Middle East.

At an event marred by political divisions, the Swiss entry offered a comforting rallying point. Singer Nemo Mettler follows in the footsteps of previous queer, transgender or drag contestants who were launched into the world at Eurovision, from Israel’s Dana International in 1998 to Austria’s Conchita Wurst in 2014.

Their song The Code was high-drama, but the stage show was effective for its simplicity, with the artist acrobatically balancing on a spinning platform.

It was one of several entries that defied Eurovision’s reputation as a showcase for the blandest of eurodance mush.

Croatia’s Baby Lasagna, real name Marko Purišić, had not just been the bookkeepers’ but a fan favourite with Rim Tim Tagi Dim, a song that sounded as if Jon Bon Jovi had secured Rammstein as a backing band; Italy’s Angelina Mango reminded the continent of her country’s proud song tradition with a forceful steelpan number on the unlikely theme of boredom.

Olly Alexander performs Dizzy for the UK.
Olly Alexander performs Dizzy for the UK – which got zero points in the public vote. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s entry, Olly Alexander, came 18th with his song Dizzy, having received zero points in the audience vote.

Klein, a 26-year-old former YouTuber from Friesland, had long been tipped to make an impression at the song contest – just not like this. With lyrics in Dutch, German, Italian and English, and a video that closes on an image of a “European house” in flames, his song Europapa would have also been the first Eurovision song about the European Union since Toto Cotugno’s Insieme 92, which references the Maastricht treaty that was signed that year.

At the pro-Palestine rally in the city centre on Saturday afternoon, one participant waved a “Twelve points go to Joost Klein” placard. Politics and pop had become intertwined in ways that were difficult to untangle.

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