The Netherlands is the winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.
Duncan Laurence’s doleful piano ballad “Arcade” was tapped as an early front-runner before Saturday’s Grand Final. But it had to rely on the fan vote to secure the country’s fifth win in the competition.
Italy finished second, followed by Russia, Switzerland and Norway.
Winners were chosen by a mix of votes from viewers via text message and professional juries from the 41 participating countries.
Canadian-born singer Katerine Duska finished 21st out of 26 finalists. Duska was born in Montreal but moved to Greece with her parents as a teenager.
Duska performed her song “Better Love” on the broadcast, which reached an estimated audience of 200-million viewers worldwide – more than the Super Bowl.
The Eurovision debuted in the wake of World War II to heal a divided continent. Over the years, the earnest show of European unity has ballooned into a campy, over-the-top, gay-friendly spectacle that brings together acts from 41 countries, including those with little or no connection to Europe, such as Australia.
The ostensibly non-political affair has tried to avoid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has so far succeeded, despite swirling threats of controversy. Calls for performers to boycott the show over Israeli policies toward Palestinians have failed to generate much momentum.
A small protest took place outside Tel Aviv’s Expo Center before the show, following another one from musicians in Gaza earlier in the week. A recent round of rocket fire toward Israel from there also failed to temper excitement.
Madonna herself had faced calls from a Palestinian-led campaign to avoid performing at the event in Israel. But the Queen of Pop rejected the boycott motions, saying she will “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda.”
Madonna performed her hit song, “Like a Prayer,” marking 30 years since its release, and her new song “Future” from her forthcoming album “Madame X.”
For Israel, the mega event offered a much-anticipated opportunity to to put its good face forward and project an image of normalcy to the world. Israel-themed promotional clips featuring each of the participants dancing in various scenic locations across the country streamed before each performance.
The event itself was being hosted by a quartet of Israeli celebrities, including top model Bar Refaeli. Israel’s own Wonder Woman Gal Gadot was also set to make a cameo appearance. The Tel Aviv hall was packed with thousands of screaming fans, while tens of thousands gathered to watch the final at the city-sponsored Eurovision village and at public screenings elsewhere.