After more than a week of rehearsals, two semifinals and 53,000 COVID-19 tests for fans, staff and performers, the Eurovision 2021 finals were to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands Saturday night in front of a smaller-than-usual live audience.
Having qualified to the finals, Israeli Eurovision contestant Eden Alene was scheduled to take the stage third with her song “Set Me Free” as the live broadcast begins at 10 p.m. in Israel (3 p.m. EDT). Twenty-six countries will battle it out in the contest.
“See you on stage TODAY!” Alene posted on Instagram Saturday.
On Tuesday night she won a spot for the finals during the first semifinal. Alene’s signature “whistle note” may have been a factor in winning fans over, it being the highest note ever in Eurovision history.
Watch the Eurovision finals live here (video may be geoblocked outside Israel):
Still, Alene is not considered a favorite in the contest and is currently ranked at 19 in betting odds on EurovisionWorld.com. Italy, France and Malta are the top contenders.
While the hugely popular music festival that oozes flamboyance is seen as a significant step toward a post-pandemic return to live entertainment, not everybody managed to avoid the virus.
The popular Icelandic band Dadi og Gagnamagnid with their kitsch dance moves and green leisurewear is in the final, but cannot perform live because one member tested positive. Instead, viewers will see a recording of one of the band’s dress rehearsals.
While the entertainment world has changed in the pandemic, the Eurovision final formula familiar to its worldwide legion of fans has not. The event is being hosted as usual by the last winner, the Netherlands — except that it won in 2019 in Tel Aviv.
Alene was set to represent Israel in 2020, but the contest was canceled altogether last year due to the pandemic.
After acts from 26 countries perform their songs Saturday night, they are awarded points by panels of music industry experts in each competing nation and by members of the public voting by phone, text message, or via the contest’s app. The winner takes home a glass microphone trophy and a potential career boost.
In 2018, singer Netta Barzilai became Israel’s fourth Eurovision winner after taking the crown in Lisbon, Portugal, with her song “Toy.”
AP contributed to this report.