Showtime: Eurovision Song Contest opens, defying boycott calls

Contestants John Lundvik of Sweden on the orange carpet during the opening ceremony of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 12, 2019.
Contestants John Lundvik of Sweden on the orange carpet during the opening ceremony of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, Israel on May 12, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

TEL AVIV (REUTERS) - Contestants from 41 countries walked an orange carpet in Tel Aviv on Sunday (May 12) for the opening ceremony of Eurovision 2019, brushing aside security concerns and calls for a pro-Palestinian boycott.

The 64th Eurovision Song Contest holds semi-finals in Tel Aviv, Israel's entertainment and business capital, on Tuesday (May 14) and Thursday (May 16) ahead of the grand final on Saturday (May 18).

Instead of the traditional red carpet, an orange carpet, matching the logo of a company sponsoring the event, was rolled out.

"Everyone is excited in my team. I'm really happy to be here," said Cypriot singer Tamta, the first artist to stroll the walkway flanked by visiting photographers and reporters.

The four members of Poland's Tulia gave a quick sample of their folk singing style called "spiewokrzyk" or "scream singing" to the crowd's enjoyment.

Finish DJ Darude said artists behind the scenes of the festival were "slapping high-fives and having a good time".

Concerns had been raised that the contest could be disrupted by a surge in cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. But a ceasefire that went into effect a week ago has been holding.

 
 

When Israel was selected last year to host the 2019 Eurovision finals, the internationally televised event was identified by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign as a target for its efforts to pressure governments, companies, performers and academics to isolate Israel.

BDS has called on artists and broadcasters to withdraw, saying that holding it in Tel Aviv amounted to "artwashing - whitewashing through arts" Israel's policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

No delegations have pulled out.

Israel has mounted a counter-campaign, rebutting BDS attacks and accusing some supporters of being anti-Semitic or having ties to militant groups.