By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The Netherlands, one of the pre-event favorites, won the Eurovision Song Contest finals, earning the country the right to host next year’s pop music festival.
The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence, singing a ballad titled Arcade, outpointed the other 25 competitors in the event that finished early on May 19 in Tel Aviv, Israel, and was seen on televison by tens of millions of people worldwide.
Italy followed in second place, while Russia ended in third place with a performance a song titled Scream by Sergei Lazarev.
Azerbaijan finished in seventh place, followed by North Macedonia in eighth.
Serbia was 17th, followed by Albania in 18th and Belarus in 25th place. Britain finished last.
Winning nations win the right to host the next year’s finals. Israel’s Netta Barzilai captured the top prize in 2018 with her song Toy in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
Most countries went through preliminary competition to qualify for the final, while five core European countries — Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain — as well as host nation Israel received automatic berths.
Viewers and professional juries in all 41 participating countries voted, with the televoting and juries each representing 50 percent of the outcome.
No country could vote for its own contestant.
North Macedonia qualified for the event during the semifinals, as did Russia, Belarus, Serbia, and Azerbaijan.
Laurence, the Dutch performer, was listed as the favorite by bookmakers before the event took place.
Australia, while not a European nation, was also considered a potential winner behind Kate Miller-Heidke’s Zero Gravity. She finished ninth.
John Lundvik, who performed Too Late for Love, also among the pre-event favorite for powerhouse Sweden. He finished sixth.
The country’s pop superstar group, ABBA, is perhaps the most famous winner of the competition, taking the honors in 1974.
Eurovision was first held in 1956 with the aim of uniting Europe after World War II.
This year’s finals featured a performance by pop superstar Madonna. Some supporters of Palestinian causes had urged the singer to boycott the event, but she rejected the calls, saying she would “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda.”
Two of her backing dancers briefly appeared on stage wearing costumes with the Israeli and Palestinians flags.
Iceland’s performers waved small Palestinian banners during the voting.