The weather wasn't predictable during the opening ceremony of the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday evening, which was repeatedly interrupted by rain showers.
Artists and their team nevertheless walked the turquoise carpet, past journalists, bloggers and fans, with the former royal palace in Venaria Reale near Turin as a backdrop. With or without an umbrella, they showed off their extravagant outfits.
Australian Sheldon Riley floated along with an oversized flokati cape; Ronela Hajati from Albania wore a brightly colored folkloric costume with a cube-shaped hat that protected her well from the rain. Spain's Chanel came in a red mini-dress in combination with a gigantic red-plush stola. Malik, the German participant, was dressed rather simply in a black shirt and a dark red suit in matt satin.
Ukrainians posed on the carpet with serious faces: The Kalush Orchestra, currently the competition's top favorite, wore suits reminiscent of the clothes of the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, and carried the blue-and-yellow flag of their home country.
Rehearsals are in the hot phase
The opening ceremony was a rehearsal-free day for the participants in Turin, allowing them to take a breather before tackling the 10th day of rehearsals on Monday in the Pala Olimpico. That is where the first semi-final will take place on Tuesday evening. The show was first held for the juries on Monday evening. Their votes are then to be combined with those of the audience on Tuesday, based on the live performances of the semi-finalists.
Organizers faced technical issues in the last few days, reporting that the central-stage element known as the "kinetic sun" was not functioning during the first rehearsals. Since some of the acts had integrated the stage design into their choreography, new concepts had to be found as quickly as possible — a cause of distress.
Ukraine is favorite
Ukraine has been participating in the European Song Contest since 2003. Since then, they have made it 10 times into the top 10, and won twice — most recently in 2016 in Stockholm. The following year, the event took place in Kyiv. The colorful and cheerful event offered distraction from the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which started following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.
At this year's Eurovision, Ukraine's entry, the Kalush Orchestra, is the leading favorite. Even though the competition claims it is not a political event, it somehow ends up being one each year. Given the war and global solidarity with Ukraine, it is not surprising that the Ukrainians are met with sympathy from all over Europe. And the song of this colorful group is really strong. "Stefania" is a mixture of folkloric singing and rap with a very danceable groove.
Big Five with good odds
The so-called "Big Five" are the countries that largely finance the Eurovision Song Contest. Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Spain are seeded for the final and do not have to qualify in the semi-finals. However, those countries are often not represented in the top 10. the UK, Germany and Spain have landed some of the worst rankings in the past few years. However, this year, three of the Big Five have a good chance of placing in the top five.
Fire, space and love
"Chanel," from Spain, for instance, turns up the heat with her performance of the song "SloMo," a firework of pole dance and Latino rhythms that has good chances of getting many televote points. Sam Ryder is already a big TikTok star in the UK. With his song, he surprised the Eurovision community from the start. With "Space Man," an homage to iconic singers like Freddie Mercury or Elton John, he offers a really strong British song for the first time in a while — and is currently tipped by bookmakers as competing with Italy for second place.
Italy comes with a duet: "Brividi," sung by Mahmood and Blanco, is a power ballad — a same-sex love song about the end of a relationship and the inability to talk about one's feelings. Mahmood has already braved the Eurovision fans in Tel Aviv in 2019, where he finished second, just behind Dutchman Duncan Lawrence. Now, the act might allow Italy to retain its title after rock band Maneskin's win last year, which brought the Eurovision Song Contest to Turin.
Germany's Malik solid and 'groovy'
Germany is sending 24-year-old German-American Malik Harris into the race. His stage design is reminiscent of a cozy living room; he sings his song "Rockstars" surrounded by his instruments. The rap sequence in his act is particularly compelling. Based on rehearsals, many observers say he at least won't come in last. Harris said at a press conference last Saturday that he was in a good mood and that he doesn't see the event as a competition at all, but more like a school trip.
On Tuesday, the first 10 finalists will be determined in the first semi-final. The second semi-final takes place on Thursday. The big show on Saturday evening will start at 9:00 p.m. — and then, around 180 million viewers around the world will be sitting in front of the television to experience the world's biggest music annual contest live.
Author Silke Wünsch
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