The UK’s Mae Muller has said she is “ready to get this show on the road” ahead of Saturday’s Eurovision final, after it emerged Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky had been barred from addressing the event.
After months of preparation, the 25-year-old singer from north London will finally perform her track, I Wrote A Song, for the international voting public.
Muller is hoping to continue the success of last year’s UK entry Sam Ryder, who finished second behind Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine.
Twenty-six acts will perform at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool to an expected global audience of 160 million viewers, according to the BBC, after the UK agreed to host the contest on behalf of war-torn Ukraine.
Austria will open the show with Teya and Salena’s quirky dance-pop tune Who The Hell Is Edgar?, about being possessed by the ghost of 19th century Gothic author Edgar Allan Poe.
Muller will close the show with I Wrote A Song – a slot generally considered a disadvantage.
But they all face tough competition from previous winner Loreen representing Sweden and Kaarija representing Finland, both favourites to win.
Fans may also struggle to reach Liverpool for the celebrations due to a strike by workers in the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
It comes after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the event, said it had declined Mr Zelensky’s request to speak on Saturday over fears it could politicise the contest.
He had wanted to make an unannounced video appearance and had been expected to implore the global audience of millions to continue backing his country in its fight to repel Russian invaders.
The EBU said Mr Zelensky had “laudable intentions” but “regrettably” his request was against the rules.
The move prompted criticism from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his predecessor Boris Johnson, among other figures.
The EBU has declined to comment further.
It's been an honour to host #Eurovision on behalf Ukraine.
But we shouldn't forget why it's here: because of Putin's illegal war.
Despite the EBU's decision to deny President Zelensky a chance to address Eurovision, our area will always provide a voice to those promoting peace. pic.twitter.com/So475491lt
— Steve Rotheram (@MetroMayorSteve) May 12, 2023
Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram has said he will speak to both the Ukrainian ambassador and the mayor of Lviv, who are both in the city for the final, “to discuss what we can do to provide a platform” for Mr Zelensky.
Mr Johnson tweeted on Saturday: “Tonight’s #Eurovision was meant to be hosted by Ukraine, but Putin’s unjust invasion made that impossible.
“The UK is honoured to host in Ukraine’s stead, and Liverpool stands in solidarity with all Ukrainians tonight. Let’s celebrate the unifying power of music”
Tonight’s #Eurovision was meant to be hosted by Ukraine, but Putin's unjust invasion made that impossible. The UK is honoured to host in Ukraine's stead, and Liverpool stands in solidarity with all Ukrainians tonight. Let’s celebrate the unifying power of music
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) May 13, 2023
It comes after the full line-up of the grand final was revealed following the second knockout round on Thursday night.
After 16 countries competed, the 10 remaining spots went to Poland, Australia, Cyprus, Albania, Estonia, Belgium, Austria, Lithuania, Armenia and Slovenia.
The 10 countries that qualified from Tuesday’s semi-final were Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, Czechia, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Norway.
They will join the so-called “big five” nations – the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain – who each get a free pass because of their financial contributions to the event, along with last year’s winners Ukraine.
The Eurovision grand final will air live on BBC One from 8pm on Saturday.