On Saturday night in Liverpool, Loreen from Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest, a popular music competition. With this victory, Loreen has become the second person, after Ireland’s Johnny Logan, to win the contest twice, and her win has brought Sweden level with Ireland as the most successful countries in Eurovision. Following her victory, Loreen spoke in an interview broadcast to reporters, saying “It was crazy. I’m thankful.”
Finland’s Kaarija was second in a close-fought battle between the Nordic neighbors, while Israel came in at third position.
Britain hosted on behalf of Ukraine, which was crowned winner last year but could not host the event due to Russia’s ongoing invasion.
The grand final kicked off Saturday night, with last year’s winner, Ukrainian folk-rap band Kalush Orchestra, opening the show in Liverpool.
Air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine as the contest got underway.
Ukrainian media reported that the home town of Ukraine’s Eurovision entry Tvorchi, was struck.
“Turnopil… was bombed by Russia while we sang on the Eurovision stage about our steel hearts, indomitability and will,” the band said on Instagram. “Europe, unite against evil for the sake of peace!”
The Princess of Wales, Kate, made a surprise appearance playing on video in the opening statement as well.
Austria’s Teya & Salena then performed “Who The Hell is Edgar?”, a pounding track inspired by the 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe.
The annual cultural contest has become increasingly popular outside of Europe.
In the build up to the event, Loreen, who won Eurovision in 2012, was the bookmakers favorite.
Finland was another favorite as well, with Kaarija’s pop-metal party tune “Cha Cha Cha” having been a crowd-pleaser in the semifinals.
Canadian singer La Zarra, competing for France, was also highly ranked for her song, “Evidemment.”
The country that wins the contest typically hosts the competition the following year, but given the war in Ukraine, the UK, last year’s runners-up, is hosting this year’s contest in Liverpool.
26 countries competed
Bands and performers from 26 countries took the stage in Liverpool in the UK.
These include 20 countries that were selected on two separate semifinals hosted earlier this week.
The six others are the “Big Five” — France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK — that are the top financial contributors to the contest and advance to the finals directly.
Ukraine, as last year’s winner, qualified for the finals automatically too. UK organizers vowed to make it a celebration of Ukrainian spirit and culture.
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Each competing act had to sing live and stick to a three-minute limit, but was otherwise free to create their own staging.
Artists use elaborate choreography and flashy pyrotechnics to gain votes, which, in turn, gives them points to win the competition.
The voting process is somewhat complicated, involving juries in separate countries as well as a separate vote by the public.
The European contest has launched bands and artists that have gone onto become superstars in their own right, including Abba and Celine Dion.