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Israelis celebrate Eurovision Song Contest victory

By Julian Shea in London | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-15 10:39

 

People celebrate the winning of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 by Israel's Netta Barzilai with her song "Toy", at Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 13, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

The famously eccentric extravaganza is contested between countries that are members of the European Broadcasting Union, explaining the presence of non-geographically European countries such as Israel and Australia. This year's competition drew an estimated global television audience of more than 200 million.

Apart from the result, the night's main talking point was a member of the audience getting on stage and grabbing the microphone during the United Kingdom's entry.

Netta's victory, Israel's first since 1998, was the country's fourth overall. It means Israel will host Eurovision 2019, and comes at a time of other national celebration.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel, and sees the United States move its embassy from the country's administrative capital Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - a deeply controversial move for the whole Middle East region, given the city's disputed status between Palestinians and Israelis.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Netta's win was just the latest bit of good news for the city.

The singer, whose large physique and flamboyant dress sense made her stand out from the other performers, was equally thrilled at her victory. "Thank you so much for choosing different," Netta said in her acceptance speech. "Thank you so much for accepting the differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity," before adding "next year in Jerusalem", a phrase associated with the Jewish festival of Passover.

Divided opinion

Eurovision sharply divides opinion, with many critics regarding it as a waste of time and money, but it has a huge fan base, many of whom attend each year.

In 1974, legendary Swedish pop group Abba shot to world stardom when they won Eurovision with their song Waterloo, and in 1998 Celine Dion gained her first international exposure when she won it for Switzerland.

In addition, Eurovision also spawned the internationally successful Riverdance theater show, which grew out of a dance routine created as a television intermission entertainment when Ireland hosted the competition in 1994.

julian@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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