Italian rockers win Eurovision as contest returns with 'message of hope'

Italian rockers Maneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on May 22, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ROTTERDAM (AFP) - Italian rockers Maneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam on Saturday (May 22), hailing the kitschy tournament's return from a year off due to coronavirus as bringing a message of hope to the world.

The high-kicking lederhosen and eyeliner-wearing Italians, who were favourites for victory, beat off stiff competition from France and Switzerland with their song Zitti e Buoni.

Italy's third Eurovision win and its first since 1990 capped a night of glitz and glamour in the Dutch port city, despite tough pandemic restrictions that limited the live audience to just 3,500 people.

"We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world, rock and roll never dies," singer Damiano David shouted as he picked up the microphone-shaped glass Eurovision trophy.

The competition in Rotterdam was cancelled last year for the first time in the history of the 65-year tournament, one of the world's most watched television events with around 200 million viewers.

This time 12 months ago, the Ahoy Arena venue was being used as a makeshift hospital for the pandemic.

But the theme of this year's Eurovision was "Open Up" and the Dutch government-backed coronavirus restrictions could be a model for events such as Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics.

Italy's win was not without controversy, however, as footage of singer Damiano David bent over a table during the Eurovision ceremony went viral on social media.

David strongly denied allegations of drug-taking: "I don't use drugs. Please, guys. Don't say that really, no cocaine. Please, don't say that."

He said he had been looking down because guitarist Thomas Raggi had broken a glass.

The band later said on their Instagram Stories that they were "ready to get tested because we have nothing to hide."

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