The 2021 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Rotterdam this weekend, but organisers have said the usual format will be “impossible” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 65th edition of Eurovision was one of the first high-profile cancellations of the pandemic, with the 41 acts scheduled to compete eventually featuring in a non-competitive virtual show on the weekend the final would have taken place.
This year, acts who can travel to Rotterdam will perform live on stage, while those unable to will submit recorded performances.
But just how will the show look in 2021? Who is the UK’s entrant? And will they be able to avoid hearing the dreaded phrase, “nil points”?
Here is everything you need to know about it.
When is this year’s contest?
The annual song contest will take place in Rotterdam in May.
The grand final will be held on Saturday 22 May, while two semi-finals will precede that on Tuesday 18 and Thursday 20 May.
What will be different this year?
Organisers have said the usual format of the show will be “impossible” in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Contestants will be obliged to take regular Covid-19 tests and must stay in their hotel except when they travel to the arena, according to new health and safety rules published ahead of the competition.
Performers and all other attendees from abroad will be recommended to go into quarantine for five days before departure to the Netherlands, and they must test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of their flight.
Sietse Bakker, the show’s executive producer, added: “In recent months, a lot of hard work has been done behind the scenes on this extensive health and safety protocol, in order to allow us to stage this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in a responsible manner.
“With the help of extensive testing, mask-wearing, hygiene measures, attention to ventilation and innovative measures, we will create an environment in which crew, artists and the press can work as safely as possible."
If someone tests positive, the Contest’s isolation protocol comes into effect, which will support the relevant authorities with track and trace research; if a participant is unable to perform live as a result, a “backup recording” will be used.
The number of people in each delegation has been largely scaled back from previous editions, and they will have to stay in their hotel, except when they travel to Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena for rehearsals, the live shows and other programme-related activities.
The number of journalists who can attend the event will also be capped at 500, with a further 1,000 able to cover the show in a new online press centre. Everyone in the arena, including crew, artists and press, will be tested regularly in a special facility.
Who is the UK’s entrant?
Singer-songwriter James Newman has said he is “excited and honoured” to represent the UK in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest.
Newman is the older brother of pop star John Newman, and had been set to appear at last year’s contest before it was cancelled.
He had been ready to perform the track ‘My Last Breath’ at the 2020 contest, but had to write a new entry after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said the 2020 songs would not be eligible for this year’s show.
Newman has revealed the new song he is taking to the Contest in 2021 is titled ‘Embers’, a dance track the singer has described as a "banger" and "full of positivity".
"’Embers’ is about those sparks that don't die out," he told Radio 1 Newsbeat. "When we were writing this, it felt like I wanted to show everyone that we were coming back together.
Unlike his original Eurovision effort – a ballad – ‘Embers’ is more of an upbeat affair, and is a “celebration of music… hopefully people like it."
Will the UK win?
The last time the UK won Eurovision was in 1997, with Katrina And The Waves’ ‘Love Shine A Light’, and the UK has not finished in the top 10 since 2009.
In recent year, BBC bosses scrapped the public vote and teamed up with record label BMG to choose the artist instead, in the hopes a higher calibre of talent could be found..
Following the initial announcement of Newman’s representation, he was billed as the UK’s great hope after years of Eurovision Song Contest disappointment.
Unlike many recent UK entries, the 35-year old is a proven hit-maker, and has helped write chart smashes like the Brit Award-winning ‘Waiting All Night’, performed by Rudimental and Ella Eyre.
He also wrote ‘Lay It All On Me’, performed by Rudimental featuring Ed Sheeran, and ‘Blame’, performed by Calvin Harris and featuring Newman’s younger brother.
Despite the online enthusiasm surrounding his new song, and his hopes as the saviour of UK Eurovision shame, he is not expected to win the Contest, with most bookmakers listing him with odds of around 500/1.
Who will win?
Ireland’s Eurovision Song Contest entry Lesley Roy missed out on qualifying for the final of the competition.
The singer-songwriter had delivered an energetic performance of her song ‘Maps’ live in Rotterdam as the competition returned for a semi-final following last year’s cancellation.
Norway, Israel, Russia, Azerbaijan, Malta, Lithuania, Cyprus, Sweden, Belgium, and Ukraine made it through to Saturday’s final.
At the second semi-final, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Portugal all did enough to get through; they were joined by Iceland, San Marino, Switzerland, Greece, and Finland and will all take part in Saturday’s final in Rotterdam.
According to OddsChecker, Italy is currently considered the top favourite to clinch the prize, with odds of around 12/5 from most bookmakers.
Other countries that could do well include France (7/2), Malta (37/5), Switzerland (8/1), and Ukraine (9/1).
It’s bad news for Eurovision fans in Albania, Germany, Moldova, Spain, and Belgium – the ‘best’ odds of winning the comparison site could find for those countries is 999/1.
How can I watch it?
The final of the competition, which is being held in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, will air on BBC One on 22 May at 8pm in a special programme hosted by Graham Norton.
It will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 in a programme hosted by Ken Bruce.
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