LIVERPOOL, England – Liverpool pulled away from the Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday as Sweden celebrated victory and Ukraine remained defiant after a night of Russian bombing, including an attack on the hometown of the country’s competitors.
Electronic duo Tvorchi represented Ukraine at Saturday night’s spectacular pan-continental pop competition, finishing sixth of the 26th place with “Heart of Steel,” a hymn to the country’s resilience inspired by the Azovstal Steelworks siege in Mariupol finalists.
Air raid sirens wailed across Ukraine as the competition took place in Liverpool, and the Ukrainian military said a barrage from Russian drones and rocket attacks left dozens wounded. One attack hit Ternopil, the hometown of Tworchi in western Ukraine.
Ternopil was attacked again on Sunday morning, Ukraine’s State Civil Protection Agency said. Civilian buildings and cars were damaged; There was no immediate information about the victims.
“Ternopil is the name of our hometown that was bombed by Russia while we sang about our hearts of steel, our indomitability and our will on the Eurovision stage,” duo Andrii Hutsuliak and Jeffery Kenny posted on Instagram late Saturday.
“This is a message to all cities of Ukraine that are bombed every day. Kharkiv, Dnipro, Khmelnytskyi, Kiev, Zaporizhia, Uman, Sumy, Poltava, Vinnytsia, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv, Kherson and all others. Europe, unite against evil for peace! Glory to Ukraine!”
Russia, a longtime Eurovision contestant, was banned from the competition last year for its invasion of Ukraine.
Swedish singer Loreen won the competition with her power ballad “Tattoo” in a colourful, eclectic music competition that was overshadowed for the second time by the war in Europe. Britain hosted the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine, who won last year but were unable to exercise their right to host the competition due to the war.
The sights and sounds of Ukraine shaped the show, beginning with an opening film featuring the Kalush Orchestra, winners of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, singing and dancing on the Kiev Metro, with the tune picked up by musicians in the UK – including Kate, Princess of Wales also play the piano.
The folk-rap band themselves then appeared on stage at the Liverpool Arena with huge hands outstretched, accompanied by numerous drummers. It was one of several Ukrainian acts to perform during the nearly four-hour show.
In its 67th year, the Eurovision Song Contest bills itself as the world’s biggest music competition – an Olympiad for party pop. The contestants each have three minutes to combine catchy tunes and breathtaking spectacle in performances that can capture the hearts of millions of viewers.
Loreen’s anthem of intense love had been the bookmakers’ favourite. She faced a powerful challenge from Finnish singer Käärijä, a highly energetic artist whose rap-pop party anthem “Cha Cha Cha” took second place.
Loreen, 39, who previously won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, said she was “seriously overwhelmed” because she became only the second person to win the crown twice. Irishman Johnny Logan was the first doubles winner in the 1980s. Sweden’s victory is the country’s seventh win, equaling Ireland’s record.
The win gives Sweden the right to host next year the 50th anniversary of Sweden’s first Eurovision triumph – ABBA’s 1974 victory with ‘Waterloo’.
The competition ended with a thrilling ending between Loreen, who won the jury vote from music professionals from across Europe, and Käärijä, who emerged as the clear winner of the audience vote.
The Finn admitted he was disappointed.
“Of course, to be honest, it feels bad. What I wanted was a win,” Käärijä told Finnish media in Liverpool. “Of course you have to be proud of this achievement. A cool performance with a Finnish song. I have a slightly sad feeling. But life goes on. It’s not that serious. You have to get on with life.”
Käärijä was undoubtedly the star of the Eurovision Song Contest and the haunting chorus of ‘Cha Cha Cha’ is likely to hit dance floors across Europe this summer.
Mae Muller, representing host country Great Britain, was penultimate – a far cry from 2022 when Britain’s Sam Ryder finished second behind Ukraine.
Liverpool, which won a competition among UK cities to host the event, welcomed both the Eurovision Song Contest and Ukraine with open arms and hearts. Businesses across the city hoisted Ukrainian flags and a program of cultural events introduced locals to the Eastern European country’s art, music and gastronomy.
However, organizers said they turned down a request from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to deliver a video address. The European Broadcasting Union said this would violate “the non-political nature of the event”.
Associated Press writer Jari Tanner in Helsinki contributed to this story.
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