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Six countries wanted to pull out of Eurovision 2024 just 25 minutes before the final

May 28th, 2024

It has been revealed that six countries competing in Eurovision 2024 nearly pulled out of the song contest, just 25 minutes before the live final.

The grand final of the competition took place in Malmö, Sweden – the home of 2023 winner Loreen – on Saturday May 11. However, the show was mired by widespread political backlash over the inclusion of Israel amid the Hamas-Israel conflict.

Many of the contestants, including Ireland’s Bambie Thug and UK representative Olly Alexander, faced pressure to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestine. But in a collective statement, the two reaffirmed their pro-Palestine stance whilst announcing they would not boycott.

There were also a number of calls to boycott the competition from various countries in the run-up to this year’s edition. Over 1,000 Swedish artists called for Israel to be banned, including Robyn, Fever Ray, and First Aid Kit, whilst over 1,400 Finnish music industry professionals signed a petition to ban the country from taking part in the contest as well.

Further criticism emerged when it was reported that Eurovision organisers reserved the right to remove Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian symbols during this year’s final, and again defended the decision not to boycott Israel over the war in Gaza.

Israel competed at the finale, and before the live event, contestant Eden Golan reflected on the boos from the audience, stating that “nothing would deter” her from representing Israel at the competition.

Eden Golan from Israel performs on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final. CREDIT: Martin Sylvest Andersen/Getty Images

Despite the backlash and the protests that followed, the final seemed to go down pretty smoothly on the night. The 2024 edition was ultimately won by Switzerland’s Nemo – who became the first ever non-binary winner, and the first person to secure the victory for the country since 1988, when Celine Dion competed with ‘Ne partez pas sans moi’.

Now, over two weeks since the event took place, it has been reported by various outlets that the EBU narrowly avoided numerous countries withdrawing at the very last moment.

According to Norwegian newspaper VG (via WiwiBloggs), six countries wanted to withdraw up to 25 minutes before the start of the final. These were the winning Switzerland, as well as Ireland, Portugal, Norway, Greece and the United Kingdom.

If all of them had backed out, it would have resulted in only 19 countries competing in the final, and left producers with nearly 20 minutes of content to fill at the last moment.

One of the most vocal about their temptation to pull out of the event was Magnus Børmark, a member of the Norwegian band Gåte.

“We were considering withdrawing until the last moment. Many of us reacted to the fact that Israel had the opportunity to use Eurovision as its own political tool,” the guitarist explained.

Gåte from Norway performs on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final
Gåte from Norway performs on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final. CREDIT: Martin Sylvest Andersen/Getty Images

“Our common point was that we did not want to participate in Eurovision to be used and stigmatised in a war propaganda machine in Israel. We participated to create a space where we can unite in music – in a political situation where everyone chooses sides and hates each other.

“It seemed as if there was one set of rules for Israel, another for the rest… There is something wrong when you experience it. The artists should not have to have a crisis meeting with the EBU.”

Another who was vocal about the inclusion of Israel and tempted to withdraw was Bambie Thug, who was forced to remove the words ‘ceasefire’ and ‘freedom for Palestine’ in a medieval script from their costume, and later declared “fuck the EBU” after the contest.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has reported that the number of artists wanting to pull out of the event came to a head at the final, and “the entire final day became one long crisis meeting” for the EBU and host broadcaster SVT.

It’s unclear what was negotiated and why the six countries found participation acceptable in the end.

Greece’s broadcaster ERT has now denied any plans to withdraw. Speaking to the Eurovisionfun website, a spokesperson said: “We never discussed or considered withdrawing from the competition for any reason. The publication (VG) is incorrect at least when it comes to Greece.”

Swiss singer Nemo representing Switzerland with the song "The Code" celebrates after winning the final of the 68th Eurovision Song Contest 2024
Swiss singer Nemo representing Switzerland with the song “The Code” celebrates after winning the final of the 68th Eurovision Song Contest 2024. CREDIT: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has previously refuted any wrongdoing, and claimed that its team faced “unprecedented hatred” during the competition.

The controversies in this year’s contest were seen elsewhere too, as  Portuguese entry Iolanda’s final performance was apparently replaced with separate footage due to her “pro-Palestine” nails, and Netherlands’ entry Joost Klein was disqualified just hours before the contest for allegedly making verbal threats towards a female member of the production crew.

After their victory on the night, Nemo seemed to allude at the issues plaguing Eurovision this year by suggesting it might need “fixing”.

Since then, the BBC has responded to complaints about this year’s Eurovision coverage saying “some aspects of the broadcast…didn’t appeal to everyone”, and it has been reported that this year’s finale broke global viewing figures despite protests and backlash.

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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