Israel's Eden Alene has made it to the final round of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held on Saturday in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Alene, 21, performed the song “Set Me Free” flawlessly, showing off her impressive whistle register capabilities, in the first semi-final on Tuesday night.
"I don't know, I can't, I'm going to explode because of the excitement," said Alene, who was born in Jerusalem to Ethiopian-Jewish parents, right after the semi-final. "I'm so happy for my country because we deserve it, because we have been through so much and I have been through so much, so I'm so happy."
She added: "I want to thank everyone for supporting us in those sensitive and complicated times for my country. I am happy to bring some pride to Israel, and to stand on the world's largest stage with an Israeli flag – that is in fact the real achievement for me. To have Israel on the world map in the most positive way possible and for that I am grateful and proud. I will do my utmost best to make you all proud this coming Saturday. I am sending you all big hugs."
In 2020 Alene won the Israeli TV show "Rising Star," which chooses the country's Eurovision representative, but the European musical extravaganza was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Alene was born in 2000 and lives with her mother in Kiryat Gat, in southern Israel. As a child, Alene was raised by her single mother and attended religious school. In high school she studied in a theatre track.
Three years ago she won the Israeli version of "X Factor." She is the only Israeli to have won two prime-time television music competitions. After that win, Elena released two singles within Israel.
The Dutch port city of Rotterdam has seen a slimmed down version of the Eurovision song contest with a limited live audience, amid falling but still significant COVID-19 infection rates in the Netherlands. On Tuesday night, the first semifinal was held at the city’s Ahoy Arena, in which 16 artists competed for 10 slots in the grand finale.
These are the countries from the first semi-final that qualified for the Grand Final:
The competition is hosted this year by four BN'ers (Dutch celebrities): two-time Eurovision contender Edsilia Rombley; television star Chantal Janzen ("Chantal blijft slapen"); celebrated singer Jan Smit; and international YouTube makeup sensation and trans rights activist Nikkie de Jager (“Nikki Tutorials”).
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Among the contestants on Tuesday night were artists from Australia, which, like Israel, joined the show despite not being a European country; Russia, Sweden, Norway, Cyprus, seven times winner Ireland and North Macedonia, which won the juries vote in the last Eurovision that was held in 2019, in Tel Aviv.
When we made the decision to try and unite everyone here in Rotterdam we knew the pandemic unfortunately would still be around. We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact of it,” Martin Osterdahl, the contest’s executive supervisor, told Reuters on Monday.
The competition began with participants from 39 countries, who were all tested for the coronavirus before allowed entry to the venue. For the semifinal of the remaining 16 nations, around 3,000 fans were able to attend, contingent on presenting a negative coronavirus test.
Over the weekend, the organisers revealed that infections were detected in members of the delegations from Poland and Iceland. Both delegations were in quarantine. “If an artist tests positive we will go to the back-up tape,” Osterdahl said, stressing that no one gets in the Eurovision venue without a negative test.
The Netherlands is hosting the 65th edition of the event, which draws a television audience of about 200 million, after Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence won the 2019 contest with the song “Arcade”.
Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have dropped by more than a quarter this month, after climbing to their highest levels of the year in April. The Dutch health minister on Monday announced the country will go ahead with easing COVID-19 curbs, which will result in amusement parks, zoos, gyms and outdoor swimming pools reopening on Wednesday.