Eurovision 2024: Switzerland Wins in Most Divisive Song Contest in 68-Year History

Israel’s Eden Golan placed fifth in what was a relatively uneventful show at the Malmö Arena in Sweden, despite the most tumultuous build-up the contest has ever seen.

The nonbinary singer, representing Switzerland, won with their track “The Code” collecting 591 points from a combination of music industry juries in each participating country and the global public.

Croatia placed second with 547 points at the event in Malmö, Sweden and Ukraine third with 453 points. Rounding out the top five were France and Israel with 445 and 375 points, respectively.

Eurovision Dutch participant Joost Klein

Eurovision was back and supplied everything fans are used to seeing on Europe’s most eccentric music night of the year: corset-clad dancers in knee-high leather boots puckering up for the Spanish “Kylie Minogue,” Ireland’s horned goth gremlin scream-singing a dark tale of witchcraft and some crafty camerawork masking the genitals of Finnish entrant Windows95Man (his denim shorts were swiftly delivered onstage by rope).

Hosted by Swedish-American actress Malin Akerman (27 DressesThe Proposal) and presenter Petra Mede, the four-hour spectacle featured performances from 25 different countries and even surprised the audience with virtual avatars of the legendary ABBA performing 1974’s winning hit “Waterloo.”

Despite the most tumultuous build-up the contest has ever seen, it was a relatively uneventful show, nudity-heavy, but as lively and colorful as expected.

Eurovision organizers came under fire for their handling of the contest up until the Grand Final. Reports of unrest among the contestants and country delegations ran amok on social media. Rumors of entrants missing rehearsals, flags being pulled down and claims of misconduct backstage hugely disrupted the usually peppy Eurovision build-up.

Disqualification of Dutch participant Joost Klein Saturday, after an allegation of intimidation was made to Swedish police by female member of the production crew.

Eurovision bosses have long believed their event to be nonpolitical, but in recent years the competition is more sharply reflecting geopolitical opinion across Europe. Russia, for example, was barred from 2022’s contest after it invaded Ukraine. In a show of solidarity, Ukraine’s participants Kalush Orchestra were voted winners that year (despite, as many critics pointed out, not putting on the strongest performance).

The only tangible evidence of an unwelcome reception for Golan was a notably less enthusiastic crowd response at the final – for Israel’s spokesperson, too. Attendees reported a sea of jeers that television mics might not have picked up; the exec supervisor of Eurovision Song Contest, Martin Österdahl, received a chorus of arena-wide booing as he spoke, presumably following Klein’s exclusion.

Golan has become a lightning rod for mass condemnation of Israel’s war on Gaza, which, according to the territory’s health officials, has killed more than 34,000 people — most of them women and children — in seven months. It began in October when Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an incursion on an Israeli music festival and killed over 1,200 people.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog ordered “necessary adjustments” to Golan’s initial entry to ensure his country could compete – the lyrics to “October Rain” seemingly referenced the Hamas attack. Instead, the 20-year-old performed a romantic ballad called “Hurricane.” But even the most fervent of Eurovision fans pledged to boycott the event this year, objecting to the barrage of missile strikes on Gaza.

“We would like to stress that any decisions regarding participation are the responsibility of the EBU’s governing bodies, not the individual artists,” the EBU said. “We are firmly against any form of abuse or harassment directed at participants, online or offline, and are committed to fostering a safe, respectful and inclusive environment.”

U.K. entrant Olly Alexander, once the front man of British pop band Years & Years before he began performing under his own name, also faced pressure to quit. More than 450 queer artists, individuals and organizations called on him to not perform amid the conflict in Gaza. He refused, posting a statement explaining that while he “wholeheartedly” supports a ceasefire in Gaza and the return of all hostages, “it is my current belief that removing myself from the contest wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal.”

Outside the Eurovision venue, pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place. On Thursday, local police reported that over 10,000 people, including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, marched through the city in protest that directly called on Eurovision organizers to drop Israel from the contest. Another 15,000 gathered before Saturday’s finale.


Ireland entrant Bambie Thug at Eurovision 2024. COURTESY OF GETTY IMAGES

Individuals from certain delegations refused to take part. Just hours before the show began, former Eurovision entrant Käärijä pulled out as the spokesperson for the Finnish jury, saying that distributing points “does not feel right.” He did not elaborate further.

Dutch broadcaster Avrotros soon followed suit, citing Klein’s disqualification. They wrote on X after consulting with their spokesperson Nikkie de Jagge: “Just like Nikkie, we imagined this evening very differently.”

As the competition now turns to its new host, Switzerland, the political turbulence has certainly left sour taste in spectators and organizers this year.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter