First 10 nations advance to this year's Eurovision final


TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The first semifinal of the Eurovision Song Contest came to a close late Tuesday, sending 10 countries’ acts to the Grand Final and seven others home.

Contestants from Australia, Iceland, Greece, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus, Estonia, Czech Republic, San Marino and Slovenia moved ahead after televotes trickled in, with much suspense, from all 41 countries in the contest. The national votes are split between a professional jury and phone-in viewers.

Tuesday’s round dashed the dreams of performers from Montenegro, Finland, Poland, Hungary, Georgia, Portugal and Belgium.

The show, replete with its characteristic camp, featured a dizzying array of acts, from the grinding metal rock of Iceland’s steampunk band to the catchy pop of the scantily clad Cypriot singer.

Australia’s breathy act, “Zero Gravity,” by Kate Miller-Heidke, which showcased dancers’ fancy footwork on stilts, and Greece’s upbeat “Better Love” performed by Katerine Duska, are considered two of the competition’s frontrunners.

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Thousands of fans packed the Tel Aviv hall, waving flags and cheering patriotically. The enthusiastic atmosphere appeared free of recent politics that many in Israel feared would spoil the festivities.

Iceland’s representative, Hatari, had sparked controversy in Israel by initially vowing to use the Eurovision spotlight to expose the “face of the occupation.” But at a press conference after the semifinal, Hatari offered a purely positive message. “We need to unite and remember to love,” he said, in the wake of “hate that’s on the rise in Europe.”

Some 200 million viewers worldwide tuned into the spectacle.

The second semifinal on Thursday also will vault 10 countries to the final round, which will be held Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

Five core European countries and host nation Israel bypass the semifinal rounds, so a total of 26 acts will compete to be crowned Europe’s best pop act in the 64th year of the annual extravaganza.

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