The Netherlands won the 2019 Eurovision song contest early Sunday at a show in the seaside Israeli city of Tel Aviv that featured a performance from Madonna, plenty of glitz and some controversy.
The oh-so-glamorous and famously kitschy finale gave Israel a chance to showcase its credentials as a culturally progressive nation, but politics lurked in the background as pro-Palestinian activists called for a boycott.
The extravaganza passed off largely politics-free, though two incidents temporarily drew attention away from the songs and toward Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
Local media showed images of two of Madonna’s dancers side-by-side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs during her performance in an apparent call for unity.
Icelandic group Hatari meanwhile displayed scarfs with Palestinian flags when results were being announced.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, condemned both displays.
Referring to Madonna’s dancers, it said “this element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals”.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this.”
It was not clear whether the singer was aware of the flags during her routine.
– ‘Sublime and powerful’ –
Israel won the right to host the extravaganza thanks to last year’s victory by Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, who opened the show on Saturday night at a Tel Aviv concert hall.
At a beach across town, crowds gathered to party at a Eurovision Village set up for the event.
After performances by all 26 finalists, Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands took the prize with the stirring power ballad “Arcade”.
Laurence, 25, came out as bisexual in 2016 and has used his new high profile to call for tolerance.
Italy finished second and Russia third in the results that combined votes from juries from participating countries as well as viewers at home.