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Eurovision legend becomes first star to boycott 2024 contest over Israel’s inclusion-Meghna Amin-Entertainment – Metro

‘Eurovision is about atmosphere and joy, and I feel neither.’

Eurovision legend becomes first star to boycott 2024 contest over Israel’s inclusion-Meghna Amin-Entertainment – Metro

A host of the Eurovision Song Contest has dropped out (Picture: Eurovision)

A host of the Eurovision Song Contest has dropped out from this year’s competition, boycotting the 2024 event over Israel’s inclusion.

Gísli Marteinn Baldursson is a presenter for Iceland’s channel RÚV, and has fronted Eurovision commentary for the country’s broadcasts from 1995 to 2003, and then from 2016 to 2023.

However, he’s giving up his role this year amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which has killed more than 33,000 Palestinian people and injured a further 75,000 in Gaza.

Baldursson, 52, announced his plans to boycott on Instagram, saying [in translation]: ‘To answer those who have asked: I will not cover Eurovision this year.

‘The reason is Israel’s actions in Gaza and the competition’s response to it, mainly the lack thereof.

‘For me, Eurovision is about atmosphere and joy, and I feel neither in this year’s competition.’

Icelandic presenter Gísli Marteinn Baldursson is boycotting Eurovision

He shared the announcement on Instagram (Picture: Instagram)

Baldursson, who has also hosted his own talk shows, held a short career in politics, as a city representative for the Independence Party in the Reykjavik City Council between 2006 and 2013, after which he returned to television.

He now fronts a Sunday Morning talk-show and a Friday news programme, holding the roles of chief editor and host for both.

Iceland will be represented in the upcoming 68th Song Contest by Hera Bjork, with the song Scared of Heights.

Eurovision has sparked immense backlash over recent months over including Israel in the Song Contest, with more than 2,000 artists from Iceland, Finland, and the host country Sweden signing open letters asking for Israel to be banned.

Protests in some of those countries have called for Israel to be suspended from the Song Contest after retaliation attacks in Gaza, following Israel’s retaliation in Gaza after the Israel-Hamas conflict began on October 7.

Meanwhile, stars including Dame Helen Mirren, Boy George and Sharon Osbourne are amongst stars who have signed an open letter supporting the country’s inclusion, after it was shared on non-profit body Creative Community For Peace, who campaign against cultural boycotts of Israel.

There was further controversy over Israel’s entry Eden Golan singing October Rain, which contained lyrics that described the situation around the Hamas attack which killed around 1,200 people and took hundreds hostage.

Eden Golan is representing Israel, and lyrics to her controversial song October Rain have been changed (Picture: REUTERS)

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan later agreed to change the lyrics to the song, and said they had reached out to the songwriters to ‘readjust the texts, with full artistic freedom’ before being sent to the Eurovision Broadcasting Union for approval.

Their entry had come under fire after lyrics in the song prompted accusations that they are ‘spreading propaganda’ and that they contain a political message with reference to the Hamas attacks, with Golan having previously dedicated the track to the Israeli hostages still held in Gaza, saying: ‘We won’t truly be OK until everyone returns home.’

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Lyrics in October Rain originally included: ‘There’s no air left to breathe / No place, no me from day to day.’

Meanwhile, the UK’s entry Olly Alexander has responded after being called on to boycott.

The Years & Years frontman, 33, will represent the UK at the competition in Sweden in May with his song Dizzy.

Olly Alexander has been urged to boycott Eurovision (Picture: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images for BAUER)

However last year the BBC was urged to drop him as the act after he reportedly endorsed a statement accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza in an open letter condemning the country as having an ‘apartheid regime’ that ‘acts to ethnically cleanse the land.’

After calls to boycott, he addressed the controversy in a letter of his own alongside other entrants from Ireland, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania and Finland.

The statement read: ‘We want to begin by acknowledging the privilege of taking part in Eurovision.

‘In light of the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and particularly in Gaza, and in Israel, we do not feel comfortable being silent. It is important to us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and communicate our heartfelt wish for peace, an immediate lasting ceasefire, and the safe return of all hostages.

‘We stand united against all forms of hate, including antisemitism and islamophobia.’

It continued: ‘We firmly believe in the unifying power of music, enabling people to transcend differences and foster meaningful conversations and connections.

‘We feel it is our duty to create and uphold this space, with a strong hope that it will inspire greater compassion and empathy.’

The Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final takes place on Saturday, May 11.

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