Nemo wins the Eurovision Song Contest for Switzerland

The run-up to Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest final in Malmö, Sweden, was unusually tense and distressing, with months of protests over Israel's involvement in the competition, one contestant suspended just hours before the start of the show and clashes between police and militants. Palestinian protesters outside the arena at night.

But when the final began, the uproar quickly disappeared. Instead of protests and outrage, there was the usual high-class spectacle, with singers emoting about lost love, half-naked dancers and, at one point, a performer emerging from a giant egg.

At the end of the four-hour show, Nemo, representing Switzerland, won with “The Code,” a catchy song in which the non-binary artist rapped and sang operatically about his journey to realizing his identity. “I've been to hell and back / To get back on track,” Nemo sang in the chorus: “Now I've found heaven / I've cracked the code.”

The performance was performed while Nemo, whose real name is Nemo Mettler and who uses pronouns, was balanced on a huge spinning disk.

Nemo is the first Swiss Eurovision winner since Celine Dion in 1988, who represented the country despite being Canadian. They secured 591 points from the music industry juries of the nations participating in the competition and from spectators at home, beating Baby Lasagna, a rock band representing Croatia, who came second with 547 points.

Eden Golan, the Israeli singer who was the subject of protests in the run-up to the event, secured 375 points to finish fifth.

On Saturday night, some audience members booed as Golan performed his song “Hurricane,” while other fans cheered to drown out the din.

Since Israel's invasion of Gaza began following the October 7 Hamas attacks, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli officials, cultural organizations around the world have struggled over how artists should responding to conflict from their stages, although Eurovision has found is a particular challenge.

Pro-Palestinian groups and many Eurovision fans have spent months trying in vain to convince the contest's organizers, the European Broadcasting Union, to ban Israel from participating because of its actions in Gaza, which local authorities say have killed more of 34,000 people and caused displacement. 1.7 million. Activists say there is a precedent: in 2022, Eurovision banned Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

The European Broadcasting Union has repeatedly rejected such calls, saying the show is a competition between singers, not between nations.

Although Israel is not part of Europe, it is a member of the European Broadcasting Union and has competed in Eurovision since 1973, winning four times. Other non-European countries, including Australia, also compete in the show, the final of which attracts tens of millions of live television viewers.

In Malmo this week, the controversy over Israel's participation was ever-present, and not just during the pro-Palestinian marches. Eurovision organizers had banned the display of slogans or symbols that they said could foment dissent, including Palestinian flags. During one of the rehearsals this week, two members of the public waved the banned flags, but security staff quickly removed the objects.

Even Slimane, a pop singer representing France, stopped singing during that rehearsal to ask for peace. “I'm sorry, I don't speak English very well,” she said. “Every artist here wants to sing about love and sing about peace.”

In the final itself, the pro-Palestinian demonstrations on stage consisted of small gestures. Iolanda, a singer representing Portugal, performed wearing fake nails printed with a checkered pattern reminiscent of the one seen on the kaffiyeh, the scarf symbolizing the Palestinian cause.

The furor over Israel's involvement wasn't the only crisis surrounding the competition this week. A few hours before Saturday's final, the organizers banned the participation of Dutchman Joost Klein. That morning, Swedish police said in a statement that a man was “suspected of making unlawful threats” against a Eurovision employee and officers had forwarded a file to prosecutors to look into the allegations. Eurovision organizers said in a statement that Klein was the man under investigation and that it would “not be appropriate” for him to compete in the final.

AVROTROS, the Dutch public broadcaster which chose Klein to represent the Netherlands, objected to his disqualification. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said the organizers' action was “disproportionate.” The statement claimed that Klein had made “a threatening movement” towards a female camera operator, who was filming him without her consent, but had not actually done so. she touched it.

Before Saturday's final, some fans in the arena sang Klein's song to protest his absence.

But when the votes were counted and the winner was crowned, the evening ended on an optimistic note. After accepting the winner's trophy, Nemo, crying, said: “I hope that this competition can keep its promises and continue to defend peace and dignity for every person in this world.”

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