Preparations are intensifying in Azerbaijan ahead of Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest.
As organisers responded to criticism over human rights in the country, rehearsals were in full swing with the first semi-final due to be held on Tuesday night.
Aiming to provide light relief from a domestic crisis, the Greek entry is called “Aphrodisiak” by Eleftheria Eleftheriou. Some might argue the country needs to stimulate its economy rather than its sexual desire, but the upbeat oriental tune went down a treat at rehearsal.
Latvia’s Anmary – Linda Amantova in real life – revealed that one of her backing team was part of the country’s winning line-up 10 years ago. They are hoping to repeat that success with “Beautiful Song”.
Greece and Latvia were among 18 countries in the first semi-final to perform their songs on the Crystal Hall stage during the dress rehearsal on Monday.
As the artists attempted to perfect their routines, organisers were again defending the choice of Baku as a venue.
The head of the European Broadcasting Union said the contest helped put Azerbaijan under the spotlight. “The fact is that journalists are not going to ignore (the country) but to look,” said Ingrid Deltenre. She revealed that the EBU has asked the Azeri government for an explanation following reports that journalists had been arrested.
More people were held during a pro-democracy protest on Monday. Azerbaijan has accused human rights groups of spreading lies about the country.
The EBU has revealed joint plans with the Council of Europe for an autumn conference in Baku to evaluate progress on human rights.
The Eurovision Song Contest is expected to attract around 100 million television viewers around the world.
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