The Eurovision Song Contest, the first major global cultural event to be held in person since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, ended in a triumph for Italy’s Maneskin, who won with a hard-rocking song called “Zitti E Buoni” (“Shut Up and Be Quiet”).
The track received 524 points in voting from national juries and the public, beating France’s entrant, Barbara Pravi, by 25 points, and was cheered to victory by over 3,500 Dutch fans at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
“We just want to say to the whole Europe, to the whole world, rock ‘n’ roll never dies!” said Damiano David, the band’s lead singer, accepting the prize.
Maneskin, a rare rock winner in a contest whose previous winners include Abba and Celine Dion, beat 25 other acts, some unusual even for Eurovision standards, including a folk-techno act from Ukraine, a feminist Russian pop star and an Icelandic disco band.
The show will be seen by many around the world as a sign that major cultural events, featuring competitors from dozens of countries, can be held successfully if sufficient measures are put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.
In the run up to Saturday’s event, contestants had to undergo regular coronavirus testing, adhere to social distancing rules and stay in their hotels if not attending rehearsals.
The measures were not enough to stop the pandemic from intruding entirely on the event. Last Saturday, a member of the Polish delegation tested positive for Covid-19. The following day so did a member of Iceland’s entry, the hotly tipped disco act Dadi Freyr and Gagnamagnid, who were staying at the same hotel.
This was Italy’s third win since the contest’s creation in 1956; its previous triumph was in 1990, with Toto Cutugno.
Testifying to the strength of the field, the lead kept changing as the votes from the various national juries came in, with Switzerland in the top spot by then, followed by France and Malta. But the popular vote upended the ranking, and Italy passed its competitors.