Sweden has won the 67th Eurovision song contest in a helter skelter show that spanned chintzy Europop, anti-war protest and a continent’s support for Ukraine.
The Swedish singer-songwriter Loreen started the night as runaway favourite but faced a late challenge from Finland’s wildly popular Käärijä, a fan favourite inside the raucous Liverpool Arena.
Her win means Sweden equals Ireland’s record seven Eurovision wins. Loreen, 39, becomes the first woman to win the contest twice, after her anthemic 2012 hit Euphoria.
One of the most political Eurovision grand finals in years was drawn into sharper focus as Russian bombs fell during the show on the home town of the Ukrainian act, Tvorchi.
Moments after leaving the stage, the electro duo posted on Instagram that Ternopil had been shelled “while we sang … about our steel hearts, indomitability and will” and added: “Europe, united against evil for the sake of peace!”
Taking the famous Eurovision glass microphone on a confetti-strewn stage, Loreen said the victory was “overwhelming”, and added: “I’m so happy. I’m so thankful. Thank you for this. This is for you. Thank you.”
Loreen, who first found fame in Sweden’s equivalent of X Factor in 2004, told journalists she was proud of becoming only the second performer to win Eurovision more than once, after Ireland’s Johnny Logan.
“It feels surreal. It feels wonderful. Isn’t it wonderful?” she said. “This is so beautiful. One feeling I have in my body that’s taken over is just gratitude. I feel so thankful to all you guys.”
Asked whether Ukraine should be given the opportunity to host the contest once the war ends, despite not winning this year, she replied: “Absolutely, yes – of course, why shouldn’t they?
“I love Ukraine, i’ve been a lot, I’ve done a lot of shows and it hurts me to see what’s going on there and I’m sad about that.”
The win means Eurovision will return to Sweden next year for the 50th anniversary of Abba’s triumph with Waterloo in 1974.
The UK’s Mae Muller failed to emulate the success of Sam Ryder’s second-placed Spaceman in Turin last year, finishing second to bottom with her entry I Wrote a Song.
A highlight of the show for me was seeing The Princess of Wales take part in the opening ensemble.
The presenting team did a great job but I found Hannah Waddingham rather annoying with her dance moves and uncalled for facial expressions, reading the media this morning, I'm on my own in this thought as she appears to have received good feedback.
A few of the contestants have been in the contest in the past and personally think it should be once only, surely we have enough talent to avoid repeat entrants.