Throwback to Tel Aviv – Eurovision 2019

If the Eurovision Song Contest was considered politically biased till this edition, then the 2019 edition only showed how deep politics can get into the contest. Hours after the victory of Netta in Lisbon, the then Israeli minister of culture and sports Miri Regev tweeted that the contest will be hosted “In Jerusalem or not at all”. With Jerusalem being the Israeli capital it was obvious it will be taken into consideration when choosing the host city. The Israeli government replied to the tweet by saying that the decision wasn’t taken yet and that the choice of the host city will be taken care of like in previous years. The hosting of the contest wasn’t much welcome by the ultra-orthodox parties in Israel as the rehearsals take place on Saturday. This goes against the Jewish religion as Saturday is the day-off in Israel and according to the Jewish religion no work should be done that day. With tensions rising between Gaza and Israel as the contest got closer and with missiles being shot on southern Israel on the first day of the rehearsals, the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 will probably be remembered as one of the most political contests ever.

Four cities placed bids on hosting the contest that year: The three main cities of Israel Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem as well as the city of Eilat showed interest in hosting the contest. Yet, it was clear that it was a battle between the three big cities and Eilat stood no chance.
With pressure from the Israeli parliament members to host the contest in Jerusalem and with Israeli people expressing a will for it to be hosted in Tel Aviv due to the city being more open-minded and LGBT friendly than the conservative Jerusalem, it was eventually decided to give Tel Aviv the right to host the contest’s both Semi-Finals as well as the Grand Final in the EXPO Tel-Aviv and with the Eurovillage being in the Charles Clore Park.
A proposal to set the Tel Aviv LGBT pride march and parties on the same weekend of the contest was written but later declined for multiple reasons. Tel Aviv’s food festival which is usually set for mid-June was set on the week of the contest and took place in the Eurovillage itself. Tel Aviv’s city council decided to set Tel Aviv’s white night celebrations on the night of the second Semi-Final instead of in late June like every year.

The contest’s slogan was , “Dare to Dream” and the official logo consisted of layered triangles designed to resemble a star, reflecting “the stars of the future” coming to Tel Aviv. The stage which had as main design concept the shape of traingles was designed by Florian Wieder.

The question concerning who will be given the role of the host that year was among the most asked questions that year. Names of many famous Israeli personalities were rumoured. Among the names were the names of Gal Gadot, an Israeli famous actress who played the role of wonder woman in the Hollywood production of the movie. In the end, four hosts were chosen. Two men and two women were given the desired role. The hosts were: Assi Azar, an Israeli host and actor, Erez Tal, a long time tv personality in local show business, Lucy Ayoub, a journalist in the Israeli national broadcaster and Bar Refaeli, a well known Israeli model.

Forty-one countries competed in Tel Aviv with Bulgaria and Ukraine withdrawing for different reasons. Twenty-six countries competed in the Grand Final with Romania and Armenia failing to qualify for the second year in a row. Last year’s host Portugal failed to qualify as well. On the other hand, San Marino and Iceland qualified for the first time since 2014. Malta qualified after their last qualification in 2016. Russia qualified and came 3rd in the final after failing to qualify for the first time in the contest’s history the year before. Greece and Azerbaijan qualified after one year of failure. North Macedonia qualified after its last time being in 2012. The Macedonian entry won the jury voting and came 7th in the overall voting.

The contest in Tel Aviv saw the return of five lead singers: Sergey Lazarev and Serhat came back to represent Russia and San Marino accordingly after their first participation in 2016.  Joci Pápai came back to represent Hungary after doing so in 2017. Tamara Todevska represented North Macedonia after doing so in 2008 alongside Vrčak and Adrian. She backed in 2004 and 2014 for Toše Proeski and Tijana Dapčević respectively. Nevena Božović represented Serbia in 2013 as part of Moje 3 and in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2007. Jurij Veklenko who formerly backed for Lithuania in 2013 and 2015 came back as lead singer.

On the other hand, previous representatives came back to as backing vocalists for their own or another country. Mikheil Javakhishvili, Georgia’s representative in 2018 as part of Ethno-Jazz Band Iriao, backed Oto Nemsadze. Mikel Hennet backed Miki after being a part of D’Nash in 2007. Stig Rästa, who represented Estonia with Elina Born in 2015 backed Victor Crone. Mladen Lukić, who represented Serbia in 2018 as part of Balkanika, backed Nevena Božović. Sahlene, who represented Estonia in 2002, and provided backing for her native country Sweden in 1999, for Malta in 2000 and for Australia in 2016, backed for the United Kingdom this time. Jacques Houdek, who represented Croatia in 2017, backed Roko. Émilie Satt, who represented France in 2018 as part of Madame Monsieur, backed Bilal Hassani. Destiny Chukunyere, who won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2015 for Malta, backed Michela.[60]

Even though the scandals started already during the decision of rather Israel will or will not host the contest, the scandals kept on occurring even after the decision was taken. After winning the Ukrainian national final “Vidbir”, Ukrainian singer Maruv had to withdraw from participating in the Eurovision Song Contest due to multiple disagreements with the Ukrainian broadcaster concerning some parts in Maruv’s contract for the contest. With Maruv’s withdrawal and other artists refusing to take her place, Ukraine ended up withdrawing from the contest.
Icelandic representatives “Hatari” were subject of scandal themselves. Their song “Hatrid Muun Sigra” was criticized for its lyrics. Nevertheless, the band members themselves were criticized as well due to their pro-Palestinian agenda. This agenda was expressed during the televoting results announcement when the band members waved scarves with the Palestinian flag on them. The incident caused waves of shock in the venue as well as in around the world.
During the broadcasting of the first Semi-Final, a cyber attack on behalf of the terrorist group “Hammas” on the Israeli broadcaster’s servers was prevented. The attack’s aim was to post a message warning from an incoming missile attack on Tel Aviv. In reality, no missiles were planned to be shot and the main aim of the message was to create chaos around the country, mainly in the Eurovillage.
Invited to perform as Interval act in the Grand Final, Madonna’s performance was criticized for its low quality and Madonna’s bad vocals. Madonna herself performed live on stage during the live transmission but didn’t perform during the jury rehearsal as she had closed rehearsals scheduled for her. This caused rage among those who purchased tickets to the jury rehearsal claiming to be paying a full price but only getting a partial show performed. This case was then taken care of by the Israeli judiciary system.

The contest in 2019 saw a slight modification in the way the votes were presented. Between the years 2016 and 2018, the votes were revealed in two parts. At first, a spokesperson from every country appeared on the screen and announced the 12 points the jury of the same country gave. The votes from 1 to 8 and 10 were shown on the screen while the spokesperson was greeting the hosts. After all jury votes were received, the televoting votes were announced in a way every country received the sum of its points from the other participating countries. Between 2016 and 2018 the televoting was announced by first announcing the name of the country who got the least of points. in 2019 the televoting results were revealed according to the ranking of the countries in the jury voting starting with the country which came last in the jury and finishing with the country who came first.

Watch the voting below:

Which memories do you have from Tel Aviv? Share them with us in the comment section!

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