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Ukraine has won the 66th Eurovision Song Contest, held on Saturday night in Turin, Italy. Riding a tidal wave of support from the European public voting by telephone, Stefania of the Kalush Orchestra finished first after strong performances from the UK, Spain and Sweden in the early vote.

“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now,” vocalist Oleh Psiuk shouted from the front of the stage after the band performed. In a video address released ahead of the event, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he believed the Kalush Orchestra would win. “Europe, vote for Kalush Orchestra. Let’s support our compatriots! Let’s support Ukraine! he said.

The winning song, which mixes rap with elements of Ukrainian folk music, was originally written in honor of the group’s mothers. The band later dedicated it to all of Ukraine’s matriarchs, as lines such as “I’ll always find my way back, even if all the roads are destroyed” found new resonance. The six men who make up the group had to receive special permits to leave Ukraine and go to Italy during the war.

Stefania by Kalush Orchestra

Sam Ryder’s entry for the UK, Space Man, was in the lead at the halfway mark, having won the jury vote from all over Europe with 283 points. But after the points from the public vote were added, he finished second.

Prior to the event, Ryder said he didn’t care where he ended up, saying, “It’s something that celebrates inclusivity, self-expression, love, peace, joy. , the unit. And so thinking about the dashboard, for me, takes away a bit of the sparkle and magic from the room.

One of the standout performances of the night was Subwoofer from Norway with Give That Wolf A Banana. The anonymous duo, known only by their aliases Jim and Keith, performed in yellow wolf masks with the chorus pleading “Before this wolf eats my grandma / Give this wolf a banana”.

Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest 2022 as UK finishes second in Turin |  Eurovision 2022
Members of the Subwoofer band performed for Norway. Photography: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Gothic rock band The Rasmus, known internationally for their 2003 hit In the shadows, sang for Finland, while Australian Sheldon Riley wore the heaviest suit of the night, weighing over 40kg.

Serbian song In Corpore San featured a veiled critique of the Serbian healthcare system, with artist Konstrikta washing his hands on stage while asking “What’s the secret to Meghan Markle’s healthy hair?”

Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest 2022 as UK finishes second in Turin |  Eurovision 2022
Konstrakta from Serbia singing In Corpore Sano. Photography: Luca Bruno/AP

Russia did not participate, having been excluded by the organiser, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), due to the invasion of Ukraine which began on 24 February.

Ewan Spence from the Eurovision Insight podcast told the Turin Guardian that “Throughout the week the singers, broadcasters, community proudly supported Kalush Orchestra and Ukraine. This will always go down as a Eurovision win; but it means so much more. It is the greatest gesture of love towards the Ukrainian people from every corner of every country in Europe and beyond.

Ukraine first appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, and had won it twice, with Ruslana’s Wild Dances in 2004 and Jamala’s song 1944 in 2016. The latter sparked controversy as the subject of the song was the deportation of Crimean Tatars. in the 1940s by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union for alleged collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. It was sung in English and Crimean Tatar, and came two years after the Russian Federation annexed Crimea following the 2014 invasion.

There was also the usual spike in controversy at this year’s contest. North Macedonia’s national broadcaster has threatened to pull out after its act, Andrea, was accused of disrespecting the national flag by appearing to throw it to the ground. She apologized explaining that she had tried to throw it at a member of her team who was too far away to catch it.

The organizers censored the song Eat Your Salad by Citi Zēni from Latvia. The protest song in favor of going green included the line: “Instead of meat, I eat vegetables and pussy.” With the EBU insisting that the word ‘pussy’ has been dropped, the Eurovision audience started shouting it loud and clear. The song failed to qualify for Tuesday’s semi-final, avoiding an awkward moment before the turning point for broadcasters across the continent.

There were also complications on stage. A high-tech item called the “kinetic sun” was meant to spin, allowing acts to use either a giant LED screen or a wall of lights. The mechanism to change it proved not to be quick enough, leaving some artists scrambling a few days before the contest to readjust the way they presented their songs.

Although the UK finished second, Ukraine’s win still gives the BBC a glimmer of hope to stage the event again for the first time since 1998. Traditionally, the winner of the show l anime the following year, but given the current situation in Ukraine, the EBU may be cautious about planning an event a year from now in Kyiv. The 2023 host will most likely be chosen from one of the so-called “big five” countries that contribute the most to Eurovision’s coffers and are guaranteed a direct entry into the final: France, Germany, Italy. Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

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