Eurovision

Eurovision heartbreak for France as Italy steals the show

Italian band Maneskin win the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam
Italian band Maneskin win the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam REUTERS - PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW

Italy has won the Eurovision Song Contest with rockers Maneskin stealing the show in Rotterdam as the tournament returned from a year off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Clad in leather lederhosen and eyeliner, the Italians and their song "Zitti e Buoni" overcame stiff competition from France and Switzerland to win the 65th Eurovision.

But there was heartbreak for French singer Barbara Pravi, who came agonisingly close to ending her country's 44 years of hurt since its last Eurovision win with her moody number "Voila".

French President Emmanuel Macron gave solace to the French contestants, tweeting: "Bravo and thank you...for making France shine at Eurovision."

Dutch showcase for post-Covid events

The nail-biting finish capped a night of glitz and glamour in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, despite tough pandemic restrictions that limited the live audience at the Ahoy Arena to just 3,500 people.

The competition was cancelled last year for the first time in the history of the 65-year tournament, one of the world's most watched television events with around 200 million viewers.

But the theme of this year's Eurovision was "Open Up", and the Dutch government-backed coronavirus restrictions could be a model for events such as Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics as the world slowly emerges from lockdown.

The run-up featured coronavirus scares, with Iceland's entry Dadi og Gagnamagnid ruled out of performing live when a band member tested positive for Covid-19.

Dutch 2019 winner Duncan Laurence was also unable to take to the stage after coming down with symptoms of the disease during rehearsals this week.

But the mood of the "love it or hate it" extravaganza was relentlessly upbeat, with the focus back on where it should be – the weird and wonderful songs, cheesy lyrics  and flamboyant costumes.

New beginning

Highlights included Norway's contestant Tix, who took to the stage in huge white angel wings, and who takes his stage name from the tics that he suffers as a result of having Tourette's Syndrome.

Other highlights included Cyprus' entry "El Diablo" which has been accused of blasphemy and Satanism by the Cyprus Orthodox Church and religious groups.

Russia's contestant Manizha has angered conservatives with her song "Russian Woman" – even as she wowed audiences during the semi-finals with a huge Russian doll-style dress that burst open to reveal the singer in a red boiler suit.

A year ago, the Rotterdam Ahoy venue was being used as a makeshift hospital for coronavirus victims, and the shadow of the disease still hung over this year's contest.

Contestants were in a "bubble" during the competition and every one of the thousands of people entering the Eurovision site had to be tested for coronavirus.

But that failed to dissuade fans from turning up to celebrate.

Eurovision also had its first transgender host, with Dutch YouTube star Nikkie de Jager, better known as NikkieTutorials, joining the presenting team.

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