Eurovision kicks off with pop and protests

Competition in the 68th Eurovision Song Contest kicked off on May 7 in Sweden, with the war in Gaza casting a shadow over the sequin-spangled pop extravaganza.

Performers representing countries across Europe and beyond took the stage in the first of two semifinals in the Swedish city of Malmo. It and a second semifinal tonight will winnow a field of 37 nations to 26 who will compete in Saturday's final against a backdrop of both parties and protests.

Ten of the 15 acts performing Tuesday were voted through to the final by viewers, including Croatian singer-songwriter Baby Lasagna, whose infectious electro number "Rim Tim Tagi Dim" is the current favorite to win, and Ukrainian duo alyona alyona and Jerry Heil, flying the flag for their war-battered nation with the anthemic "Teresa & Maria."

Also making the cut were goth-style Irish singer Bambie Thug, 1990s-loving Finnish prankster Windows95man and Portuguese crooner Iolanda. Iceland, Azerbaijan, Poland, Moldova and Australia were eliminated.

Other bookmakers' favorites who will perform tonight include nonbinary Swiss singer Nemo, Italian TikTok star Angelina Mango and the Netherlands' Joost Klein with his playful pop-rap song "Europapa."

Security is tight in the Swedish city, which expects an influx of some 100,000 Eurovision fans, along with tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters. Israel is a Eurovision participant, and demonstrations are planned against the Israel-Hamas war.

Organizers told Israel to change the lyrics of its entry, originally titled "October Rain" in apparent reference to Hamas' cross-border Oct. 7 attack that killed some 1,200 Israelis and triggered the war. The song was renamed "Hurricane" and Israeli singer Eden Golan was allowed to remain in...

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