Eurovision final puts spotlight on Azerbaijan

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Eurovision final puts spotlight on Azerbaijan

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Azerbaijan sees this year’s Eurovision song contest as a chance to showcase the country. It has been criticised for clamping down on dissent, but Baku insists people enjoy freedom of speech.

The oil-producing nation won the right to host the contest after notching up the most votes at last year’s event.

“All of the things that are going on now, this huge building, all of the foreign guests who have come to Azerbaijan because of us, it feels unbelievable,” Nikki, last year’s winner, told euronews.

Sixteen thousand people had tickets to attend the live final and 124 million television viewers were expected to tune in across Europe.

The venue, Crystal Hall, was built by a German firm in just eight months.

“This is the first event to take place in the newly-built arena. When we started preparations here eight months ago, there was nothing. It was an island and you had nothing on it, then a stadium was built,” show producer Yorg Grabosch told euronews.

Away from the glitz, dozens of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested in Baku this month. They have been calling on the government to resign.

Also read: Eurovision: the great voting conspiracy