Contestants from 41 countries stroll down orange carpet, as Eurovision kicks off
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Contestants from 41 countries stroll down orange carpet, as Eurovision kicks off

Participants arrive for contest’s opening ceremony in Tel Aviv, with backdrop of recent Gaza rocket fire and boycott calls

  • Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • French contestant Bilal Hassani walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    French contestant Bilal Hassani walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Hatari of Iceland walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Hatari of Iceland walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Contestants walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Contestants walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • ZENA of Belarus walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    ZENA of Belarus walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Hungarian contestant Joci Papai walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Hungarian contestant Joci Papai walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Czech Republic contestant Lake Malawi walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
    Czech Republic contestant Lake Malawi walk on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
  • Israel's Netta Barzilai, the winner of last year's Eurovision contest, poses for a picture during the Orange Carpet ceremony of the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, at Expo Tel Aviv, on May 12, 2019. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)
    Israel's Netta Barzilai, the winner of last year's Eurovision contest, poses for a picture during the Orange Carpet ceremony of the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019, at Expo Tel Aviv, on May 12, 2019. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Eurovision participants from 41 countries strutted down the orange carpet in Tel Aviv on Sunday evening, on their way to the opening ceremony kicking off the international song contest.

Instead of the traditional red carpet, the confab’s sponsor, MyHeritage, rolled out an orange rug at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square to match its logo. (Tel Aviv styles itself the “Big Orange,” as a city that never sleeps, in a fruity echo of New York’s “Big Apple” nickname.)

The competition itself will begin with semi-final rounds on Tuesday and Thursday, followed by the finals on Saturday evening.

Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi will be attempting to follow in Netta Barzilai’s shoes by bringing Jerusalem a second title in as many years. He faces an uphill battle, with oddsmakers currently predicting he will come in 25th place.

Israeli contestant Kobi Marimi walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Netherlands’ Duncan Lawrence has been given the best odds, with a 21 percent chance of winning, followed by Sweden’s John Lundvik (15%), France’s Bilal Hassani (12%), Russia’s Sergey Lazarev (9%) and the Azerbaijan’s Chingiz (7%).  The remaining contenders all have a projected chance of 5% or less to win.

Israel is hosting this year’s contest, due to Barzilai’s victory at the 2018 Eurovision in Portugal.

While there had been concerns that Eurovision would be marred by rocket fire from Gaza — which targeted Israeli towns as far as Rehovot, 20 kilometers (some 12.5 miles) north of Tel Aviv last week — a reported ceasefire that was struck last Sunday evening appeared to be holding, as the long-awaited international event kicked off.

Moreover, no contestants pulled out of the competition, despite intense pressure from activists belonging to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions  (BDS) movement.

The Tulia band of Poland walks on the Orange Carpet, during the opening event of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on May 12, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

But whether it was the recent rocket fire, boycott calls, or simply prohibitive ticket and travel costs for some European fans, the Tel Aviv Hotel Association said the contest has attracted far fewer foreign visitors than expected.

The association’s director, Oded Grofman, estimated that hotels would see around 5,000 visitors, well below Eurovision’s forecast of 15,000. Portuguese tourism authorities claimed that last year’s songfest in Lisbon drew 90,000 people.

Nonetheless, the participants were all smiles Sunday night on the orange carpet, as the cameras flashed and the microphones prepared to be flipped on.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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