Because of the war in Ukraine, the ESC circus is visiting north-west England. Liverpool are doing everything to make it a celebration for Ukrainians. Many people in the city never wanted to leave Europe.
In slang, when Liverpoolers give a very big compliment, they say something is ‘sound’. The Eurovision Song Contest has arrived in the world’s pop capital, which has produced more than 50 other number one artists alongside the Beatles. More than any other city on earth. Liverpool shares the mega party with Ukraine and shows it on every street corner. The Ukrainian national colors of blue and yellow shine everywhere in the otherwise rather gray working-class city: on banners, on posters, even regional trains in the Ukrainian neon look roll through the rainy north-west of England.
“It’s the first time that a country hosts an ESC for another country,” emphasizes Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina. “And Liverpool welcomed us with open arms.” One often hears Russian and Ukrainian in the city and sees colorful handbills in Cyrillic. Because this Saturday (9 p.m.) two countries invite you together.
ESC is apolitical – but the Ukraine war remains present
The Ukraine war is always and everywhere in the room like an elephant in this musical spectacle. Without him, the ESC would take place this year in a city like Kiev or Lviv. More and more allusions are flashing in the scenes of the interim programs – bombed houses, for example. You shouldn’t address it openly. Because the ESC statutes prohibit anyone from talking about politics on stage.
This even applies to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The head of state allegedly wanted to address the viewers with a video message at the final. But the hosting European Broadcasting Union (EBU) spoke out against it. Zelenskyy has “commendable intentions”, but his wish “regrettably” violates the rules. In Kiev, Selenskyj’s spokesman promptly denied that they had asked at all.
Hosts Liverpool are happy about ESC – Germany could do better this time
Liverpool can use this ESC well. The 500,000-inhabitant city on the Mersey is shaken by structural change and a Brexit, which was rejected by 58 percent in the 2016 vote. According to a survey, two-thirds of residents hope that the ESC will improve the image of their city. Taxi driver Andy, born in the 1960s as a soldier’s child in West Berlin, is happy about the money that is now being poured into the city. “It is great. More people come every day.”
Speaking of image gain: Germany’s ESC act Lord Of The Lost is extremely well received in England. At small concerts in a traditional club and at a school, the Brits react enthusiastically to the dark rockers from Hamburg, who look so wild and are so nice at the same time. Germany is quite high among bookmakers for the first time in at least five years and was still climbing as the week progressed. We could have an ESC without embarrassment for Germany.
“We are very relaxed, are really looking forward to the show and can’t wait,” wrote singer Chris Harms to the German Press Agency on Friday. Shortly before the finale, Harms hardly speaks a word outside of rehearsals, he has at times struggled with a ailing voice. “The voice is fine so far. Nevertheless, I naturally protect my voice and only use it when I really need it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.” The final is the most important thing. “And that’s what I’m concentrating on now.”
Betting odds, audience ratings and a farewell
When it comes to betting odds, Swede Loreen should take first place. That would be her second ESC victory after Baku 2012. This new attempt was “honestly not actually planned”. “But then there were somehow loud signs,” says the 39-year-old dpa. “I suddenly had this song. And he’s so beautiful. So much then happened around that the universe kind of seemed to be directing me in that direction.” She decided to come back “because I was so encouraged by the people around me.” Experts also give the Finnish ESC contribution quite good chances.
According to a survey by the YouGov institute, 27 percent of TV viewers in Germany want to follow the competition on Saturday on the first channel, women (30 percent) more so than men (24 percent). You will hear the distinctive voice of TV commentator Peter Urban, who has been with the ESC since 1997, for the last time: “Of course, that doesn’t leave me cold. When I’m sitting there, it’s going to get to me.”