Eurovision heartbreak for France as Italy steals the show
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.
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."
Un grand bravo et merci @BabPravi de réaliser ce rêve fou. Ce rêve fou d'une jeune fille aux yeux noirs. Ce rêve fou de faire briller la France à l'#Eurovision. Ce soir, c'est aussi le rêve fou de pouvoir à nouveau vibrer ensemble, en Européens.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 22, 2021
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.
- Rotterdam defies pandemic to 'open up' for Eurovision
- Eurovision makes Covid-lite return in the Netherlands
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.
Let’s do this. I will sing dans la 2e partie de soirée !!! MERCI ! ♥️ thank you to ALL for your feedbacks, for all the love and everything. Whatever the results on the 22: I’ M SO PROUD OF MY TEAM AND SO PROUD TO BE THE FACE OF FRANCE AT EUROVISION THIS YEAR! GO !!! ♥️🕊 pic.twitter.com/nwicEOzULD— Barbara Pravi (@Babpravi) May 15, 2021
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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