Australia finishes ninth in Eurovision

Australia’s Eurovision entrant Kate-Miller Heidke. Photo: SBS

Some 200 million people around the world spent last night watching Israel on TV — and saw culture, not conflict.

In the Eurovision Song Contest Australia failed to realise hopes of victory, and finished ninth, as Dutch contestant Duncan Laurence took top spot with the song Arcade.

Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Chris Cannan, told The AJN, “The crowd at the Eurovision final responded very enthusiastically to Kate’s performance of Zero Gravity.

“Kate struck a real chord with fans in Israel. I was constantly being approached by people telling me how much they loved her song and stage performance. Seeing her live in Tel Aviv, surrounded by Australian and Israeli fans, was very special.”

The big winner from this year’s whole Eurovision experience was Israel.

The grand final turned out to be everything that Israel hoped, and more. It consisted of performances from 26 acts. Yes, most were cheesy and some were downright odd — but they have huge fan bases that spent four hours tuned in to Tel Aviv.

What’s more each of the acts — even the Icelandic leather-clad BDSM act which is highly critical of Jerusalem’s policies — helped the cause of Israeli tourism. Before singing they screened clips of themselves dancing at a popular site.

Once all of the contestants performed, the best was still to come. When the voting started, Madonna was ushered in. She wowed the crowd with a glitzy performance which was everything you would expect from the queen of pop.

So, viewers got the world’s best selling female artist, who never went to Eurovision before but raced to the contest once it was scheduled for Israel. They got one of the top supermodels Bar Refaeli as host. And just before the results were announced, they got Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot presenting a video guide to of Tel Aviv.

Madonna hammered home Israel’s Eurovision messaging, that the country is uniting people around music. “Never underestimate the power of music to bring people together,” she said, in an implied rebuttal of calls to boycott Israel.

Soon enough, the juries from around the world were videoed in to allocate their points. Many started with a cheery “shalom” and lots of them heaped praise on Israel for putting on an excellent event. Britain’s host said Israel put on an “amazing” evening and Poland’s said: “Israel, congratulations, it was a fantastic Eurovision show.” The Austrian host said that Israel proved that prejudice doesn’t stand a chance.

It was an evening of pure fun, with everyone getting in to the lighthearted party atmosphere — including the Ukraine’s 2007 contestant Verka Serduchka, who sang and clucked along to last year’s winning song Toy. There was nostalgia too with Israel’s 1979 winner Gali Atari performing her song, Hallelujah.

The attempt at last-minute troublemaking by Iceland’s Hatari, which waved Palestinian banners at results time, fell flat as they were only seen momentarily and — more upsetting for the group — rejected the move as a “fig leaf” gesture.

Another Palestinian flag was seen during the show on one of Madonna’s backing dancers, who was next to another dancer with an Israeli flag. European Broadcasting Union officials said that this wasn’t cleared and that Madonna had been “made aware” that the night was meant to be “non-political.” At the show nobody took much notice of the dancers, seeing it as choreographers intended — a schmaltzy, fleeting coexistence message.

Israel’s song Home, performed by Kobi Marimi, tanked in voting, but the performance was much smoother than many Israelis expected. Marimi got a tepid response when selected for Eurovision, but he sang with passion and intensity.

For years he lacked confidence as a singer. Moments after finishing his song, he broke down in tears, holding his face as he cried. “I was so nervous,” he admitted, but said it was “better than I dreamed.”

Marimi said: “This song is my life,” and commented: “Every time I sing it I’m singing my soul out.” As fans from around the world — many of them Eurovision addicts who have travelled to several finals — streamed out of the auditorium, they were still giddy from the show. “It was lively, exciting and full of stars,” said Steven Gitu from Hungary. “It was well worth the trip.”

NATHAN JEFFAY