The Eurovision song contest has always been decried by disgruntled participants as too political but it was never more so than this year.
Russia’s exclusion from the competition last February as a result of its invasion of Ukraine had a significant impact on the most geopolitical music contest.
I didn’t go to Turin but I followed the event from Rome. I remember hearing friends and colleagues telling me Ukraine was going to win. This, in fact, was the general consensus among Italian media.
But although politics has always appeared to play a role in the distribution of points, there is enough proof that the performances from the artists — especially the camp, wacky, 'everyone is welcome' kind of performances that make Eurovision adored by its legions of fans — are what the audience is really after.
This year’s competition had the largest number of social media interactions ever recorded. Instagram and Tik Tok were the most used platforms suggesting a majority of this year's fans were from younger generations.
In Italy the event has certainly become “a thing”. Special viewing sessions had been organised in public spaces as well as bars, not to mention private gatherings in people’s homes.
Such enthusiasm stems from Maneskin’s victory last year and the fact that for the first time in many years the win allowed an Italian rock band to gain global success. Figures confirm the trend. Italy had the best results with the biggest audience for any Eurovision show since the last one hosted in 1991.
And it looks like viewers were not particularly distracted by the “political noise” that was going on in the background, including threats of Russian hackers sabotaging Ukraine’s victory. Ukraine won mainly thanks to a huge wave of support from telephone – voting by the European public. And regardless of where these votes came from and if that had a geopolitical meaning, it’s the people who chose and the people only who wanted Ukraine to win.
Despite Ukrainian Volodymyr President Zelenskyy wishing to host the competition’s next edition in “a free and rebuilt Mariupol” it’s very unlikely that Ukraine will be able to host the contest next May.
But the most significant takeaway from the outcome is that Europe and its people have shown unity by reaffirming their cultural identity through music. In this sense, Eurovision also won the most difficult challenge — away from political arenas it has shown us Europeans’ true sentiment and where they stand on this.