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Updated May 11, 2023, 9:08am EDT
Europe

Why Australia and Israel compete in Eurovision, the world’s biggest live music event

Noa Kirel from Israel performs during the first semi-final of the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, Britain, May 9, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble
REUTERS/Phil Noble
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The News

The Eurovision Song Contest — a nearly 70-year-old competition that has catapulted bands like ABBA and singer Celine Dion to world fame — is underway in the British city of Liverpool.

Twenty-six countries will have the chance to compete at the grand final on Saturday to bring home the top prize: a glass microphone trophy and the right to host next year’s contest.

While Eurovision is a foreign concept to most North Americans, it’s a huge hit in Europe, drawing in 161 million viewers in 2022 and even attracting performers from countries outside the continent.

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Here’s what you need to know about the world’s biggest and glitziest musical event.

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Know More

Nearly every European country competes in the contest, and this year’s competition will be hosted by Britain. That’s despite Ukraine’s decisive 2022 win: With conditions deemed too dangerous to host the show in the country, following Russia’s full-scale invasion in early 2022, the U.K. stepped in to host on Ukraine’s behalf.

Host city Liverpool is awash in Ukrainian colors and influence, and Ukrainian television producers are working with the BBC to carry the show live.

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Thirty-seven nations competed in this year’s event, with semi-finals held across two evenings, the second one on Thursday. Of those, 26 acts will proceed to the final on Saturday — 10 from each semifinal, plus last year’s winners, and the so-called “big five” countries (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain), who make the largest financial contribution to the contest.

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The View From Australia

Australia joined in 2015 as part of a commemorative 60th anniversary event. Their inclusion was meant to be a one-off — but the country has participated every year since, and organizers for the contest said in 2019 that Australia had secured a place in the competition until 2023.

Australia’s interest in Eurovision goes further back, however: The country has broadcast the event annually since 1983.

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The View From Israel

Israel is another non-European country that enters the competition as a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), a coalition of public service broadcasters that initially organized Eurovision in 1956.

The country had entered 44 times as of 2023, British newspaper The Sun reports, and has won four times, most recently in 2018.

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The View From Russia

Russia is the only country on the continent that will not participate in Eurovision. EBU organizers pulled it from the contest last year after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and that ban has not yet been lifted.

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