Glittery Eurovision final to lift pandemic gloom

After being cancelled last year, the contest is defiantly going ahead in the Dutch port city under pandemic rules. AFP/Patrick van Emst/ANP

ROTTERDAM - The Eurovision Song Contest final returns in Rotterdam on Saturday after a year off, bringing giant angel wings, cheesy lyrics and a message of hope in the time of coronavirus.

Italy, France and Malta are the favourites to win a unique version of the love-it or hate-it kitschfest, which is defiantly going ahead in the Dutch port city under pandemic rules.

This year's theme is "Open Up", and measures including limited fan numbers and compulsory testing could be a model for events like Euro 2020 and the Tokyo Olympics as the world emerges from lockdown.

Organisers insist that the relentlessly upbeat contest, cancelled last year for the first time since it was created 65 years ago to unite war-blighted Europe through song, is more relevant than ever.

READ: Eurovision 2020 song contest cancelled over coronavirus

"These are times where we are debating each other, fighting a pandemic. Now it's also time to have some fun," Eurovision project manager Dave Geensen told AFP this week.

They say the show must go on despite a number of scares, with Iceland ruled out of Saturday's live show after a band member tested positive, forcing them to take part via a recorded performance instead.

A similar fate has befallen 2019's Dutch winner Duncan Laurence, who came down with coronavirus symptoms during rehearsals this week.

However the focus during Saturday's final -- one of the world's most watched television events with an audience of nearly 200 million people -- will be on the music and the flamboyant costumes worn by the 26 finalists.


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