Eurovision 2023: Ukraine-inspired Grand Final kicks off in Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, England, May 13 (Reuters) – The Eurovision 2023 grand final kicked off on Saturday with last year’s winner Kalush Orchestra performing on video in Ukraine and live in Liverpool, the city from northern England hosting on behalf of the country fighting Russia. invasion.

Organizers walked a tightrope between reflecting the situation in Ukraine and avoiding open politics not allowed in the competition, which attracted 37 countries this year.

Britain’s Kate, Princess of Wales made a surprise appearance playing the piano on video in the opening segment.

The 26 acts who qualified for the grand final span musical genres from ballads to heavy rock to rap, starting with Austrians Teya & Salena performing “Who The Hell is Edgar?”, a hard-hitting track inspired by 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been banned from addressing TV viewers around the world – who numbered 160 million last year – by the organizer of the European Broadcasting Union.

He said granting his request, which was made with “good intentions”, would go against the apolitical nature of the event and its rules against making political statements.

Ukraine, however, is expected to feature prominently on the show, which is themed “United by Music”. Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina is a presenter, alongside ‘Ted Lasso’ theater and TV star Hannah Waddingham, pop singer Alesha Dixon and TV star Graham Norton.

Fans arriving at the arena on the banks of the River Mersey were draped in the flags of Ukraine, Great Britain and the other 24 contenders.

The arena can hold around 6,000 people and several thousand more can watch in a fan zone.

Pam Minto, a 37-year-old support worker from Liverpool, said she was proud of her city and hoped it would make Ukraine proud.

“We just loved the whole event across Liverpool from start to finish, it’s just amazing,” she said.

Ukrainian Anastasiia Iovova, a 31-year-old teacher who currently lives in Leeds, in the north of England, said Liverpool felt at home abroad.

“We are so proud to be here, so proud that people in the UK support us in everything and we are very grateful for that,” she said.

The winner is determined by a combination of points awarded by juries and viewers in each competing country, plus for the first time viewers from other countries, who will carry the weight of a participating country.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; edited by Jason Neely

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