Eurovision 2023: what you need to know about Liverpool extravaganza

The first semi-final for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has seen Ireland fail to qualify for the main event. 

Wild Youth, the Dublin indie rock band, were among five acts eliminated during the 15-strong first live semi-final of the week at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool. 

Ireland has not qualified for the final since 2018 and Wild Youth “faced tough competition from a number of Nordic countries also competing, including past winner Loreen representing Sweden, fan favourite Kaarija of Finland and Norway’s Alessandra”, said Sky News

The ten countries that made it through to Saturday’s grand final were Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, Czechia, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Norway. 

The second semi-final will take place on Thursday as part of the week-long Eurovision extravaganza that kicked off in Merseyside last Sunday. 

Why is the UK hosting this year’s contest? 

Liverpool plays host to Eurovision 2023 on behalf of last year’s winner, Ukraine, which has had to hand over hosting duties due to the ongoing Russian invasion. The UK will be taking over responsibility, as Sam Ryder took second place at Eurovision 2022 with his original song Space Man, finishing behind the Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine.  

Thirty-seven countries are competing in this year’s competition, down from 40 in 2022. Of those 37, “31 will compete in two Semi-Finals with 10 successful acts from each Semi-Final joining 4 of the Big 5 (France, Germany, Italy, and Spain), hosts the United Kingdom and Ukraine in the Grand Final”, said the organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). 

When is the final and can I still get tickets? 

“Since the turn of the century, the Eurovision Song Contest has expanded into a week-long marathon,” said Politico.

“It’s also fair to say that the UK is making a big effort this time round,” said the news site. Last month King Charles came to officially unveil the main stage, part of a wider Eurovision Village with an area dedicated to Ukraine. Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood performed for the first time in 36 years as part of a special concert on Sunday to mark the start of Liverpool’s Big Eurovision Welcome.  

“As a curtain-raiser this event was pretty spectacular”, said The Telegraph, even if organisers will be hoping that issues with crowd control reported by The Independent, which described some fans “crying, fainting and unable to move freely”, will be ironed out before the final. 

Unfortunately for those hoping to attend in person, tickets for the nine live shows “sold out in less than 40 minutes, and hotels in the city were snapped up at breakneck speed as British fans of the contest try to get their glimpse of Eurovision history”, reported Sky News

Who’s hosting the show? 

For those not lucky enough to secure tickets, fear not as the BBC will be broadcasting the event live. Once again Graham Norton will lead the commentary for the grand final, which more than 160 million people are expected to watch globally. His co-commentator for the final will be actress and comedian, Mel Giedroyc, with Hannah Waddingham, the Ted Lasso and Sex Education star, joined by singer and Britain’s Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina as part of the hosting team for this year’s contest. 

Norton has hosted Eurovision since 2009, but “this year is even more special”, he told the BBC News saying, “and I personally feel a big responsibility to make our Ukrainian colleagues proud”. 

Scott Mills and Rylan Clark, the BBC Radio 2 presenters, will commentate on the semi-final round, while Ukrainian broadcaster Timur Miroshnychenko hosts the opening ceremony from BBC One’s Morning Live with presenter Sam Quek, said BBC. 

Paul O’Grady will posthumously appear in a short film to mark the official opening of the contest on Saturday night. Shot to welcome people to Merseyside, the special commemorative film, which is already available to watch online, also features Strictly Come Dancing’s Nikita Kuzmin and Drag Race UK contestant Sister Sister as well as TV baker Paul Hollywood and actor Ricky Tomlinson. 

Who’s projected to win? 

EurovisionWorld has six-time winners Sweden as strong favourites, giving Loreen’s Tattoo a 47% chance of winning. In second place is Finland with Ukraine’s electronic duo Tvorchi in third, followed by France’s entry. The UK’s Mae Mueller is down in eighth place with a 1% chance of winning, according to the betting site. 

As the contest has expanded over the years, Politico said “upsets seem rarer”. However, changes by the EBU to this year’s voting “could make a huge difference to the outcome”, Sky News reported. These include: 

·        Only viewer votes will decide countries qualifying from semi-finals. 

·        Viewers in non-participating countries will be able to vote online. 

·        Jury votes will, as before, be combined with viewer votes to decide the final result. 

·        The two semi-finals, ten from each, will now be decided solely based on the votes cast by viewers of the competition, rather than a combination of a jury and public vote as has been the case since 2009. 

“These changes,” said Martin Österdahl, the Eurovision Song Contest’s executive supervisor, “acknowledge the immense popularity of the show by giving more power to the audience of the world’s largest live music event.”