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After Chaos and Controversy Switzerland's Nemo Rules Europe as Eurovision Proves the Show Must Go On

Disqualifications, protests and threats to pull out came close to derailing this year's contest completely.

eurovision switzerland
Source: EBU/Corinne Cumming

Switzerland's Nemo has won the most controversial Eurovision Song Contest yet.

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After a day of chaos that at times threatened to derail the competition completely, Nemo, representing Switzerland with the song "The Code", triumphed at the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest in the Malmo Arena, Sweden, winning 591 points from a combination of juries and public votes from each of the 37 countries who had originally entered the competition.

Second and third places were taken by Croatia and Ukraine, while Norway picked up the wooden spoon with just 16 votes. Olly Alexander, representing the United Kingdom with the song “Dizzy”, scored 46 votes and finished in 18th place, after securing zero points from the public vote.

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eurovision uk

Olly Alexander, representing the U.K. scored zero points from the public vote.

The build-up to the final had been overshadowed by the last-minute disqualification of Dutch contestant Joost Klein, whose song “Europapa” had been one of the pre-tournament favorites. He was dramatically ejected from the competition on the morning of the final, with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), who are in charge of Eurovision, issuing a statement in which they said the decision had been made following investigation into “a complaint made by a female member of the production crew after an incident following his performance in Thursday night’s Semi Final.”

Later that day, AVROTROS, who organize the Netherlands' Eurovision entry, issued a statement of their own that appeared to clarify what had happened.

“Against clearly made agreements, Joost was filmed when he had just gotten off stage and had to rush to the greenroom,” it read. “At that moment Joost repeatedly indicated that he did not want to be filmed. This wasn’t respected. This led to a threatening movement from Joost towards the camera. Joost did not touch the camerawoman. This incident was reported, followed by an investigation by the EBU and the police.

“Yesterday and today we consulted extensively with the EBU and proposed several solutions. Nevertheless the EBU has still decided to disqualify Joost Klein. AVROTROS finds this penalty very heavy and disproportionate.”

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Source: EBU/ Eurovision

The contest's motto is "United By Music".

Rumors then spread on social media that following the incident, Ireland's entry Bambie Thug was threatening to pull out of the competition along with Switzerland and Greece, and that the Norwegian and Finnish juries were going to refuse to give their voting results in solidarity with Klein.

In the end, all the contestants performed, and Norway and Finland's results were counted as usual. But as the song contest's Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl announced the opening of the voting, boos rang out in the stadium, with more boos audible as the Israel jury gave their vote. Further boos came when Österdahl announced the results of the Dutch jury.

Even before Klein’s disqualification, the competition had previously been soured by controversy over Israel’s participation during the continuing war in Gaza. With many of the contestants under pressure to boycott the contest altogether, Jean Philip De Tender, the deputy director general of the EBU, said in a statement: “While we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to express opinions in a democratic society, we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest.”

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joost klein

Dutch entrant Joost Klein was disqualified just hours before the final.

The U.K.’s Olly Alexander also admitted the pressure to pull out of the competition had made him “sad and distressed”.

“Obviously there are a lot of things I wish were different,” he said. “And this is so much bigger than me and Eurovision, it really is. But I still believe it’s a good thing when people come together for entertainment. That’s why I wanted to do Eurovision."

Alexander also joined with other contestants including artists representing Ireland, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania and Finland in signing a letter on March 29 that pledged:

“As a participant I’ve taken a lot of time to deliberate over what to do and the options available to me. It is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal… we’ve decided that by taking part we can use our platform to come together and call for peace.”

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Israel's participation in the contest had been the subject of protests.

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In the end the Israeli entry, the ballad “Hurricane” sung by Eden Golan, passed off without incident, though there were claims that some sections of the crowd had booed. Golan managed to secure 375 points, and fifth place on the leaderboard.

Following Klein’s shock ejection on the morning of the final, 25 contestants performed in the Malmo Arena, whittled down from 37 hopeful European nations, thanks to two Semi Finals held on the previous Tuesday and Thursday. It was at the second of those that the incident involving Klein was said to have happened. The host nation, plus the so-called “Big Five” of the U.K., Germany, France, Spain and Italy, qualify for the final automatically each year.

eurovision ireland

Ireland's Bambie Thug was a hit with the Malmo Arena audience.

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On a night of very-modern controversy, the half-time show brought some much-needed vintage Eurovision glory, via Sweden’s most reliable export, ABBA, first via a segment with the ABBA Voyage avatars, and then a performance of their 1974 Eurovision-winning hit “Waterloo”, sung by past victors Conchita Wurst, Charlotte Perelli and Carola.

Following Nemo's win, the 69th edition of the contest will now be held in Switzerland next spring. But despite Eurovision’s stated message of harmony and unification through music, it seems that this year’s contest will likely be remembered for all the wrong reasons.


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