Photo: AFP
Ukraine's Jamala, triumphant last year
Photo: AFP

Italy, Portugal lead the pack as Kiev hosts Eurovision final

Though Israel’s Imri Ziv has managed to get through to the final, his performance is not a favorite to win; bookmakers expect Francesco Gabbani or Salvador Sobral to snatch the prize.

Italy and Portugal are the frontrunners going into the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev on Saturday night, an annual song and dance fest whose global audience topped 200 million people last year.



Italian Francesco Gabbani is leading the pack with a number, viewed nearly 114 million times on YouTube, that mixes Buddhist imagery with a dancing ape, and he explains as poking fun at the West's superficial embrace of eastern culture.



Vying for first place is Portugal's Salvador Sobral, performing a jazz-style ballad written by sister Luisa. According to the bookmakers, third favorite is Bulgaria's Kristian Kostov, the youngest entrant at 17 years old.



Ukraine is hosting the competition while the country is fighting a war, hundreds of kilometers away in the east, against Russian-backed separatists, after its Crimean Tatar entry Jamala won the competition last year.


The elephant in the room at Saturday's contest is Russia, which is boycotting the event after Ukraine barred Moscow's contestant from entering the country—a symptom of the countries' toxic relations after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.


(Photo: Amit Cotler)
(Photo: Amit Cotler)

Gabbani faced questions at a news conference on Friday about the pressures of being favorite.


"Without any offense, but it has been the biggest pressure for me that I have been asked this question (about being favorite) zillions of times," he said, speaking through an official translator.


Imri Ziv's performance at the semi-final    (Credit: Channel 1)

Imri Ziv's performance at the semi-final


שליחה לחבר

 הקלידו את הקוד המוצג
תמונה חדשה

הסרטון נשלח לחברך


הטמעת הסרטון באתר שלך

 קוד להטמעה:


"But beside that, I want to be very honest about this—you embrace this experience of Eurovision with the aim of living a great adventure and not necessarily thinking of the first or second place."


Imri Ziv—unfortunately for Israel, his odds aren't the best. (Photo: Amit Cotler)
Imri Ziv—unfortunately for Israel, his odds aren't the best. (Photo: Amit Cotler)


This is the 62nd edition of Eurovision, recognized by Guinness World Records as the longest-running annual TV music competition. It began in 1956 with just seven countries. Ireland have won the most times—seven in all—following by Sweden.


Other hopefuls this year include Jacques Houdek, known as 'Mr. Voice' in Croatia, who blends pop and operatic singing styles in the song "My Friend". Romania is fielding a duo that combines rap and yodeling.



Ukraine has won the competition twice, including last year with a song about the mass deportation of Tatars from Crimea by Josef Stalin, and its winners will perform on Saturday.


More than 10,000 have been killed in the war between Ukraine and pro-Russian fighters that erupted in 2014.


(Photo: Amit Cotler)
(Photo: Amit Cotler)


"And yes, there is a war going on, but it's further, further out," said Stephanie Novak, a visiting fan from Australia.


"And I think isn't it the whole point of Eurovision to help bring Europe together? What could be better than bringing Europe to a country that is being so affected by war at the moment and to show them what a beautiful country it is."


פרסום ראשון: 05.13.17, 16:56
 new comment
See all talkbacks "Italy, Portugal lead the pack as Kiev hosts Eurovision final"
This will delete your current comment