Dutch contestant kicked out of Eurovision hours before final

MALMO, Sweden — The Netherlands’ contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest was dramatically expelled from competition hours before Saturday’s final of the pan-continental pop competition, which has been rattled by protests over the participation of Israel.

Competition organizer European Broadcasting Union said Swedish police were investigating “a complaint made by a female member of the production crew” against Dutch performer Joost Klein. The organizer said it wouldn’t be appropriate for Klein to participate at the event in Malmo while the legal process was underway.

Although Eurovision’s motto is “united by music,” this year’s event has proven exceptionally divisive. Israel’s participation has attracted large pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with protesters saying the country should be excluded because of its conduct in the war in the Gaza Strip.

Klein, a 26-year-old Dutch singer and rapper, had been a favorite of bookmakers and fans with his song “Europapa.”

He failed to perform at two dress rehearsals on Friday, and the EBU had said it was investigating an “incident.” Although rumors had been flying that the incident was connected to Israel’s delegation, organizers said that it “did not involve any other performer or delegation member.”

Dutch broadcaster AVROTOS, one of dozens of public broadcasters that collectively fund and broadcast the contest, said that it “finds the disqualification disproportionate and is shocked by the decision.”

“We deeply regret this and will come back to this later,” AVROTOS said in a statement.

It all makes for a messy climax to an event that draws both adoration and derision with its campy, kitschy ethos and passion for pop.

Thousands of people gathered in central Malmo on Saturday to march for the second time this week through Sweden’s third-largest city, which has a large Muslim population, to demand a boycott of Israel and a cease-fire in the seven-month war.

In Finland, a group of about 40 protesters stormed the headquarters of public broadcaster YLE on Saturday morning, demanding it withdraw from the song contest because of Israel’s participation.

Several kilometers from the city center at the Malmo Arena, 25 acts — narrowed from 37 entrants by two semifinal runoffs — are scheduled to perform three-minute songs in front of a live audience of thousands and an estimated 180 million viewers around the world.

Tensions and nerves were palpable in the hours before the final. Several artists were absent from the Olympics-style artists’ entrance at the start of the final dress rehearsal, although all but Ireland’s Bambie Thug went on to perform.

The Irish performer issued a statement saying the absence was due to a situation “which I felt needed urgent attention from the EBU” and telling fans: “I hope to see you on the stage later.”

French singer Slimane cut short his song “Mon Amour” at the dress rehearsal to give a speech urging people to be “united by music, yes — but with love, for peace.”

відгуки і коментарі: