Switzerland wins Eurovision Song Contest amid Gaza protests

AFP

Switzerland won the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, beating runner-up Croatia amid Gaza protests and booing of Israeli points.

Billed as a feel-good celebration of European diversity, this year's contest has been thrust into the political spotlight with calls for Israel to be excluded over its military campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas' deadly attack on 7 October in Israel.

Swiss rapper and singer Nemo, 24, won the contest with "The Code", a drum-and-bass, opera, rap and rock song, about Nemo's journey of self-discovery as a non-binary person.

"I hope this contest can live up to its promise and continue to stand for peace and dignity for every person in this world," Nemo said, after receiving the Eurovision trophy on stage.

"To know that a song that has changed my life and a song where I just speak about my story has touched so many people and maybe inspired other people to stay true to their story is the most insane thing that has ever happened to me," Nemo later said during a press conference.

Nemo's Eurovision triumph was the third for Switzerland, and the first since Canadian star Celine Dion won singing for the Alpine country in 1988 with "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi."

Cheers of joy broke out in bars in central Zurich when the winner was announced, and Swiss revellers sang along as Nemo tore through a victory rendition of "The Code".

"I think it's just great, Nemo is fantastic," said Maha Nater, a 24-year-old kindergarten worker celebrating the win in the city after watching the marathon contest.

One karaoke bar began blasting out Queen's "We Are The Champions" as patrons joined in.

Nemo's victory would blaze a trail for others who had had to cope with prejudice against non-binary people, said Nater.

"It sets an example to follow," she said.

Croatia's Baby Lasagna, real name Marko Purisic, 28, came second with "Rim Tim Tagi Dim", a song about a young man who leaves home aspiring to become a "city boy" with better opportunities.

Israel's Eden Golan, 20, finished fifth in the contest despite demonstrators' calls for a boycott of the country.

The female solo artist on Thursday emerged as one of the leading contenders to win after qualifying for the final.

Booing was heard during Golan's performance but also applause, a Reuters photographer in the auditorium said. The noise was partly audible in the broadcast viewed by tens of millions of people in Europe and around the world.

There was also booing when the points of the Israeli jury were presented.

Several thousand protesters gathered in central Malmo ahead of Saturday's final, waving Palestinian flags and shouting "Eurovision united by genocide" - a twist on the contest's official slogan "United by music".

A few hundred people later also protested outside the venue, chanting "Eurovision, you can't hide, you're supporting genocide."

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