CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reflects on a glorious rebuke to Putin as Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest

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Everywhere in Europe was partying wildly in the early hours of yesterday morning to the delirious sound of a man with a pink tea cosy on his head rapping a Ukrainian folk song.

Everywhere except the Kremlin, that is.

Within the gloomy turrets of Moscow’s Red Square, the waxen Vladimir Putin must have sat shaking with rage, for Ukraine had just stormed to Eurovision victory.

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In a sure sign of unity against Russia’s continued aggression, Eurovision’s 180 million global audience wholeheartedly rallied behind the Ukrainian band.

Ukraine’s Euro-victory appeared inevitable from the start of the four-hour spectacular, which began in Turin, Italy, with more than 1,000 performers chanting ‘Give Peace A Chance’. Perhaps that seemed forlorn optimism. After all, the song failed to halt the Vietnam War when John and Yoko first sang it in 1969.

Within the gloomy turrets of Moscow's Red Square, the waxen Vladimir Putin must have sat shaking with rage, for Ukraine had just stormed to Eurovision victory

Within the gloomy turrets of Moscow’s Red Square, the waxen Vladimir Putin must have sat shaking with rage, for Ukraine had just stormed to Eurovision victory

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine stand on the stage after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Palaolimpico arena, in Turin, Italy

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine stand on the stage after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Palaolimpico arena, in Turin, Italy

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But by midnight, as the show’s hosts – including bygone pop star Mika – announced a colossal 439 votes from the public vote share for Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, with their song Stefania, peace really was the winner.

Their madly catchy song featured the world’s largest penny whistle and a breakdancer wrapped in paisley silk who spun on every part of his anatomy and finished the routine standing on his head. Beat that.

The UK’s Sam Ryder tried. His self-penned Space Man was Britain’s best effort since 1998 – simple pop chords, uplifting lyrics and a guitar solo that Queen’s Brian May would be proud of.

He proved a brilliant British ambassador too, always smiling through his huge beard, with girlfriend Lois Gaskin-Barber at his side in the green room afterwards.

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As the votes rolled in, it looked for a long time as though Sam might ride to a historic win. With Ukraine off to a slow start, Space Man was top of the leaderboard after just six of the 40 Eurovision juries had cast their ballots.

And there we stayed, at the top, netting 283 votes – ahead of Sweden, Spain and Ukraine – until the results of the phone-in votes were finally announced. Ukraine were unassailable in the end, with 631 to our 466, but the UK held a heady lead while it lasted.

Oleh Psiuk, frontman of Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra kisses his girlfriend Oleksandra before leaving Universo Hotel, after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Turin, Italy, May 15

Oleh Psiuk, frontman of Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra kisses his girlfriend Oleksandra before leaving Universo Hotel, after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, in Turin, Italy, May 15

Graham Norton – who has commentated on Eurovison since 2009 – couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. ‘Take a picture, this is a pinch-me moment,’ he gasped as we edged ahead. ‘This is actually happening, ladies and gentlemen. It is not a sketch, it’s not a computer glitch.’

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Graham, who was seen reeling away from the Bafta TV awards last week before decanting himself into a taxi, was typically acid-tongued throughout most of the night. ‘You’re in for a treat,’ he announced at the start of the show, before adding mockingly: ‘You’re in for other things, too.’

The other things included medleys from two of the show’s hosts, Italian singer Laura Pausini and Lebanese-born British songwriter Mika. It’s fair to say Graham adored Mika’s set, repeatedly calling it ‘amazing’, as much as he detested Laura’s.

As Laura segued into her fourth hit with no sign of stopping, Graham moaned: ‘You might think, ‘Surely that’s it?’ No! It’s not. It’s a medley – it’s a whole album.’

After yet another grinding key change, he snapped: ‘She is finished now… No! She’s not!’

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In archetypal Eurovision style, topless male dancers and half-naked women appeared in nearly every routine. Some wore tops that covered only their shoulders, some wore transparent gauze. However, most wore nothing but a thick coating of grease, like cross-Channel swimmers.

Graham Norton ¿ who has commentated on Eurovison since 2009 ¿ couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. 'Take a picture, this is a pinch-me moment,' he gasped as we edged ahead. 'This is actually happening, ladies and gentlemen. It is not a sketch, it's not a computer glitch'

Graham Norton – who has commentated on Eurovison since 2009 – couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. ‘Take a picture, this is a pinch-me moment,’ he gasped as we edged ahead. ‘This is actually happening, ladies and gentlemen. It is not a sketch, it’s not a computer glitch’

‘The great Italian shirt shortage of 2022,’ Graham japed.

His sarcasm almost delved into despair, though, during a seemingly never-ending series of mournful ballads in the middle of the show, beginning with a number from Azerbaijan, performed on an empty bookcase, which proved surprisingly popular with the judges.

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A man from Belgium then strained unsuccessfully to hit some high notes. The Greek entry was performed amid upside-down chairs that were melting into the stage. And three frumpy sisters from Iceland appeared like entrants at a village talent contest.

One sister looked strikingly familiar. ‘Special shout-out to Princess Beatrice,’ Graham laughed. ‘Good of her to show up!’

And then (finally) the ballads were over. ‘Hey, we made it, we’re out the other side,’ Graham rejoiced. He was speaking relatively – there was still another two hours to go.

'#Eurovision2022. I heard the call to f*** up Azov,' is written on the side of a Russian OFAB 250-270 high explosive fragmentation bomb destined to be dropped on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

‘#Eurovision2022. I heard the call to f*** up Azov,’ is written on the side of a Russian OFAB 250-270 high explosive fragmentation bomb destined to be dropped on the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

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Chilling images have emerged of cruel taunts scrawled on the side of Russian bombs destined for Mariupol in the wake of Ukraine's success at the Eurovision song contest last night. 'Just as you asked for, Kalusha! For Azovstal,' the message reads - a mocking retort to Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra's plea for further aid in Ukraine and for the evacuation of Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Chilling images have emerged of cruel taunts scrawled on the side of Russian bombs destined for Mariupol in the wake of Ukraine’s success at the Eurovision song contest last night. ‘Just as you asked for, Kalusha! For Azovstal,’ the message reads – a mocking retort to Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra’s plea for further aid in Ukraine and for the evacuation of Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Petr Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, shared the images of the Russian bombs on his own Telegram channel, where he condemned Putin's forces for having 'lost their humanity'. 'They are just inhuman... they have lost anything remotely similar to humanism and humanity... This is the reaction of the Russian military to our victory at Eurovision 2022... In Russia, a century of repentance will follow the losses,' he said.

Petr Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, shared the images of the Russian bombs on his own Telegram channel, where he condemned Putin’s forces for having ‘lost their humanity’. ‘They are just inhuman… they have lost anything remotely similar to humanism and humanity… This is the reaction of the Russian military to our victory at Eurovision 2022… In Russia, a century of repentance will follow the losses,’ he said.

But if he was suffering, presenter Mika was having a nightmare. At one point, the Norwegians, hidden behind yellow wolf masks, kept muscling into frame and hugging him, until he forgot his lines.

Then rushing up to one band, he declared, ‘We’ve got Spain – I’m so sorry, Romania… Now we’re moving on to the next performance, this is Holland. POLAND!’

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Last year’s winners, the heavy rockers Maneskin, performed their excellent new single in the interval, though lead singer Damiano had injured his leg and could barely stand.

And then Laura went mysteriously missing at the start of the voting, leaving Mika and co-host Alessandro Cattelan desperately ad-libbing to fill time.

Satellite links started crashing, with Eurovision’s Swedish showrunner Martin Osterdahl obliged to step in and reveal some of the international judges’ results. By now, Mika looked ready to weep.

But none of the disasters mattered in the end. Ukraine’s performers ended their number with a rousing cry to end the war ‘right now!’ – and all of Europe responded. They won’t have liked that in the Kremlin one bit.

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