The world’s biggest singing competition called Tel Aviv home earlier this month following last year’s winner, Israeli Netta Barzilai. With the Eurovision Song Contest now in the books, here are a few of the top stories and biggest controversies surrounding the competition.
The Netherlands Takes the Top Prize
Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands won the competition with his song, “Arcade.”
While he was pegged as an early favorite for the Grand Final on May 18, he still needed the support of fans to secure his nation’s fifth win. Behind the Netherlands was Italy in second, then Russia, Switzerland and Norway.
Israeli entrant Kobi Marimi finished 23rd this year, but Barzilai was on hand to present the trophy to Laurence.
“This is to dreaming big; this is to music first, always,” Laurence said.
Israeli Tech on Full Display
Ahead of the competition, the startup nation’s technological prowess was among the most praiseworthy attractions, according to Eurovision Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand.
Sand noted that each year comes with new challenges, and that this year was no different.
“That is the beauty of a song contest when it travels around Europe,” he said. “This year, it was a step up when it comes to technical solutions; it’s been very advanced, both the augmented reality and the video content that we have is amazing.”
A Couple of Protests
Madonna, the world-renowned performer, ignited tempers and stirred controversy with her performance at the competition on May 18, because two of her dancers wore Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs.
While Eurovision’s guidelines bar any form of protest or political display during its shows, that didn’t stop Madonna, as organizers didn’t notice the flags on the backs of the dancers accompanying the pop star, according to Meital Cohen, the Israeli director of the show
“We cut away from it quite fast, there were some crazy things that evening,” Cohen told Army Radio on May 19.
The display came during a performance of her new song, “Future,” the lyrics of which shed some light on her message:
“Not everyone is coming to the future / Not everyone is learning from the past… Come give hope / Come give life / Only get one, so we gotta live it right… Come make peace.”
The European Broadcasting Union released a statement immediately following her performance, in which it said that the flags were not an approved part of her performance.
“Future” was the second of two songs she performed. The first, “Like a Prayer,” featured a chorus dressed as monks.
Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev slammed the protests, calling them mistakes and inappropriate.
“You can’t ignore that there were Palestinian flags at an event of a public body, from the public budget,” she said. “It would not happen in any other country. There is a certain feeling that in our country everything is permitted and the government can’t become involved or oversee [this].”
Beyond the protest, reactions to the performance itself were nothing short of critical.
“As well as being off-key and a poor performer, Madonna managed to violate the EBU’s principle of non-political engagement by adding the Israeli and Palestinian flags to the back of two dancers,” tweeted Reuters Paris Bureau chief Luke Baker. “What a waste of money she was.”
U.K. TV host Graham Norton, who provided BBC commentary of the contest, described it as “a slightly muted response to Madonna in the hall, I would say,” according to the Daily Mail.
The only other pro-Palestinian protest at the event came at the hands of Iceland’s entrant, Hatari, which held up Palestinian flag banners to the camera as its vote total was announced.
To see performances, interviews with artists and behind-the-scenes content from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, visit www.youtube.com/user/eurovision.