he Eurovision finals have begun in Turin as 25 countries battle it out to be declared the winners – with Ukraine and the UK among those tipped to do well.
Millions of people around the world are set to tune into the pop extravaganza, the 66th time the competition has been held.
The Ukrainian entry, the band Kalush Orchestra, is heavily backed to win by bookmakers, who have estimated they have a 60% chance of clinching the top spot.
Their song, ‘Stefania,’ was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother, but has taken on an additional poignant meaning after Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of the country on February 24.
The six-member band received special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine at the contest, with one of the original members staying to fight. The others plan to return as soon as the contest is over.
The UK’s entry, Sam Ryder, is also expected to do well with his effort, ‘Space Man’, with bookmakers estimating he has around a one in ten chance of winning.
If he were to pull off the feat, he would be the UK’s first winner since 1997, when Katrina and the Waves achieved victory with ‘Love Shine a Light’.
Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs and the Italian duo of Mahmood & Blanco are also among those tipped to do well.
The winner is chosen in equal parts by a jury panel of music experts in each competing country and votes by the viewing public.
The winner takes home a glass microphone trophy, with previous winners seeing a significant career boost off the back of their success.
The event is hosted by Italy after the Italian rock band Måneskin won last year in Rotterdam.
The Rome-based band were catapulted to international fame after their win, opening for the Rolling Stones, appearing on numerous magazine covers and at Coachella.
Speaking ahead of the finale, the band’s guitarist, Thomas Raggi said: “The only advice we can give is just give everything, you’ve got three minutes, go there, smash the stage, and then the rest will follow.”
Twenty bands were chosen in two semifinals this week, and will compete along with the Big Five of Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain. These countries have permanent places at Eurovision due to their financial support of the contest.
Russia was excluded this year after its invasion of Ukraine, a move organisers said was meant to keep politics out of the contest that promotes diversity and friendship among nations.
The contest is being broadcast live in the UK on BBC One, with commentary from Graham Norton, from 8pm until around midnight.