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Eurovision favourites Portugal, Armenia sail through first semifinal

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Finalists react onstage after competing in the first semifinal of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev on May 9. (AFP)

The Portuguese and Armenian entrants for the 2017 Eurovision song contest, among the favourites to win the continent-wide songfest, were two of 10 to qualify for the final in the first round of heats in Kiev.

In Tuesday’s semifinal, Portuguese singer Salvador Sobral drew some of the loudest applause with his song ‘For The Both Of Us’ — a lilting, jazz-style ballad written by his sister.

The pitch-perfect performance was not typical fare for Eurovision, an annual contest watched by millions across Europe that is better known for its flamboyant costumes than its polished vocal acts.

Among the recent qualifiers, Sobral, Armenian songstress Artsvik and Sweden’s Robin Bengtsson are in the top five favourites to win Saturday’s final.

Italian singer Francesco Gabbani, whose back-up dancer is a man in a gorilla costume and bow-tie, is seen as the frontrunner.

Tuesday’s other qualifiers for the final were Moldova, Azerbaijan, Greece, Poland, Australia, Cyprus and Belgium.

Eight countries missed out on a final place, including Montenegro’s Slavko Kalezic, whose hair-twirling performance in a see-through shirt and long, silky skirt recalled the 2014 champion, bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst.


SEVASTOPOL, Crimea: Russian singer Yulia Samoylova has sung her Eurovision entry “Flame is Burning” in Crimea as part of celebrations to mark the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, an act of defiance after host Ukraine barred her from the competition.

Ukraine said Samoylova could not travel to Kiev for the Eurovision finals, which began on Tuesday, because she had performed in Crimea in 2015, after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine.

Samoylova performed on Tuesday to the delight of thousands in the port city of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. (RTRS)

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