All eyes on Eurovision! Ukraine is heavily tipped to win the grand final

All eyes on Eurovision! Ukraine is heavily tipped to win the grand final

President Zelensky has vowed to hold Eurovision in Mariupol next year after an outpouring of support from the European public propelled Ukraine to victory – as Britain’s Sam Ryder earned a shock second place.

Britain surprisingly topped the jury vote and led for most of the night before Ukraine were awarded a mammoth 439 points in the public vote.

The war-torn nation ended on 631 points while the UK finished second with 466 points. Spain finished third with 459 with Sweden fourth on 438.

Volodymyr Zelensky was quick to hail the victory – and even vowed to hold next year’s competition in Mariupol, despite the city being besieged by Russian forces.

He said: ‘Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe. Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision.

‘For the third time in its history and, I believe, not the last. We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt.

‘I thank the Kalush Orchestra for this victory and everyone who gave us your votes. I am sure that the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far off. Glory to Ukraine.’

The Eurovision results are a defiant message to Vladimir Putin as Ukraine’s success was followed by a stunning second place for the UK.

Britain, a staunch ally of Zelensky’s Ukraine during the Russian invasion, almost pulled off a shock win after leading for most of the night, before being pipped at the end.

In contrast, Germany and France, whose leaders have come under criticism for not being tough enough on Russia’s aggression, were the two last placed nations in this year’s contest.

Winners folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra delivered an emotional rendition of their song Stefania, which has become a war anthem for Ukraine during the invasion.

Receiving the coveted trophy, the band said: ‘Thank you for supporting Ukraine. This victory is for every Ukrainian. Slava Ukraini.’

Despite missing out on a stunning win, Britain’s Sam Ryder still achieved the UK’s best result for 20 years as he finished second.

Graham Norton, who presented the contest on BBC One, said: ‘This is a red letter moment. I am so happy for him, for the UK and for the BBC who have worked so hard to turn our fortunes.’

The 32-year-old Tik Tok star won over the audience, dazzling in a one piece suit encrusted with beads and pearls.

After topping the national jury vote with 283 points, beating out favourites Spain and Sweden, Ryder said: ‘There is so much gratitude, what an experience.’

He found fame covering songs on TikTok during lockdown, amassing 12 million followers and catching the attention of global stars including Justin Bieber and Alicia Keys.

Graham Norton, who once again anchored the contest on BBC One, said: ‘We weren’t sure they were going to make it but they have made it.

‘Their commentator did not make it, he is commentating from a bomb shelter.’

Formed in 2019, the group consists of founder and rapper Oleh Psiuk, multi-instrumentalist Ihor Didenchuk and dancer Vlad Kurochka.

During the show, fellow folk band Iceland’s Systur, who performed ballad Meo Haekkandi Sol, ended their performance saying: ‘This is for Ukraine, we love you.’

The final opened with an energetic performance featuring strobe lighting and projections of the sculpture of David by Michelangelo from Czech Republic’s We Are Domi singing Lights Off.

Finland’s rock group The Rasmus kicked off the first few performances with a powerful version of Jezebel, ripping their shirts off mid-show.

Marius Bear from Switzerland delivered a raw rendition of his track Boys Do Cry backdropped with simple lighting while France’s Alvan and Ahez had fire on stage to perform their track Fulenn.

Norway’s Subwoolfer dressed in yellow wolf costumes while performing a synchronised dance number and singing Give That Wolf A Banana.

Armenia’s representative, Rosa Linn, gave an emotional performance with her song Snap on a stage with a bed, lamp and chair all seemingly wrapped in white toilet roll.

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