Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Olly Alexander cries as he addresses Eurovision controversy over Israel

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Olly Alexander reportedly broke down in tears during an interview where he addressed the controversy surrounding his forthcoming performance at Eurovision, amid ongoing calls for a boycott due to Israel’s participation.

Alexander, known as the lead singer for the since-disbanded pop group Years & Years, and as an actor in shows such as It’s a Sin, is representing the UK at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden, with original song “Dizzy”. The grand final will take place on Saturday 11 May.

But the 33-year-old has come under intense pressure in recent months due to Israel’s involvement, which many Eurovision fans have objected to due to the country’s ongoing war on Gaza.

In an emotional new interview, Alexander admitted that he had been struggling, after the interviewer noticed that he seemed downcast during his performance at a Eurovision pre-party in London.

“Yes, I struggled that day,” he told The Times.“I was holed up in a room trying not to have a breakdown. Normally, you get on stage and turn it on, but I felt really unable to do that. It was tough… I just could not get it together and then I felt ashamed of myself and embarassed.”

A week earlier, Alexander had responded to an open letter signed by Queers for Palestine, a collective of more than 450 queer artists, individuals and organisations asking him to withdraw from the contest in protest over Israel; Alexander and his fellow Eurovision contestants said their performances would go ahead.

Olly Alexander (second from left) with Paddy O’Connell (left), Rylan Clark, Scott Mills and Lucie Jones during the London Eurovision Party in April (Getty Images)

“It it 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,” the statement said.

“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.”

Asked if the controversy had tarred his Eurovision experience, Alexander then reportedly began to cry: “Obviously there are a lot of things I wish were different,” he said. “And this is so much bigger than me and Eurovision, it really is.”

He continued: “Obviously, I wish there wasn’t a war or this insane humanitarian crisis. I wish for peace and I have found this experience, at times, extremely… I’ve just felt really sad and distressed. But I still believe it’s a good thing when people come together for entertainment. That’s why I wanted to do Eurovision.”

Olly Alexander performs during the Nordic Eurovision Party in Stockholm on 14 April (TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Ima)

Alexander said that, while he believes his goals are the same as Queers for Palestine – “a ceasefire, returning the hostages, the safety and security of all people in Gaza. All the Palestinians and the people in Israel” – his participation or not in Eurovision “isn’t going to make a difference to those things, so that’s why I’m still doing it”.

“I believe it’s good to come together with music,” he said. “I’m still hoping to enjoy some aspects of it.”

Organisers behind the Eurovision Song Contest have consistently rejected calls to ban Israel from competing amid its war on Gaza.

Responding to the calls, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs the contest, said: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a competition for public service broadcasters from across Europe and the Middle East. It is a competition for broadcasters – not governments – and the Israeli public broadcaster has participated in the contest for 50 years.

“The Eurovision Song Contest remains a non-political event that unites audiences worldwide through music.”

Israel is being represented at Eurovision by Eden Golan (GETTY)

In 2022, Russia was banned from taking part in the competition following criticism from a number of countries in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. The country did not return to the competition last year.

Initially, the EBU said that it had no plans to prevent Russia from competing, but later backtracked.

This week, the United Nations said that rebuilding Gaza will cost as much as $40bn and require effort on a scale the world has not seen since World War II, amid “unprecedented levels of human losses and capital destruction”.

The Eurovision Song Contest begins next week, with the semi-finals taking place on 7 and 9 May, before the grand final on Saturday 11 May.

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