Eurovision: The Netherlands wins, as Madonna in hot water over Israeli and Palestinian flags

18 May 2019, 23:58 | Updated: 20 May 2019, 10:32

Bookies' favourite The Netherlands has won Eurovision, as Madonna ends up in hot water with organisers after showing Israeli and Palestinian flags during her performance.

It has been 44 years since the country last won the international singing competition.

Represented by Duncan Laurence, The Netherlands with 492 points nudged into first place ahead of Italy, who had 465 points.

The UK's Michael Rice came last with a total of 16 points, but he appeared to win over the hearts of many Brits watching at home, including presenter Piers Morgan who wrote on Twitter: "Cheer up Michael Rice, we may have come last but we were still better than Madonna."

Many saw it as a Brexit-related snub, as it was the first time the UK came last since 2010.

Laurence's stripped back performance of Arcade saw him play piano under a spotlight on an otherwise empty stage.

"To dreaming big," Laurence said after his win was announced. "This is to music first," he added.

The Netherlands performed well in the judges' votes, which had seen the country initially jostle with Italy, North Macedonia and Sweden for first place.

But high votes from the general public boosted Switzerland and Norway into fourth and fifth place with 360 and 338 points - behind Russia who came in third with 369 points.

Sweden, who had been top of the board following the judges' vote with 239 points ended up sixth with 332.

Laurence's win means the contest will be held in The Netherlands next year.

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This year it was held in Tel Aviv, Israel, which sparked a backlash as some argued the country's conflict with Palestinians should not be endorsed.

Madonna performed during the show, despite calls for her and other stars to boycott the event.

She sang her 1989 hit Like A Prayer, with a 35-strong choir, and her new single Future, alongside American rapper Quavo.

Pro-Palestinian activists accused Madonna of "artwashing" and had urged her to cancel.

During the performance, her dancers turned their backs to the crowd and were revealed to have Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs. They linked their arms and walked together in the same direction moments before the words "WAKE UP" appeared on a screen behind Madonna and Quavo.

Organisers said it had not been part of the approved act and that the star had been "made aware" the event is "non-political".

Eurovision said: "In the live broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, two of Madonna's dancers briefly displayed the Israeli and Palestinian flags on the back of their outfits.

"This element of the performance was not part of the rehearsals which had been cleared with the EBU and the Host Broadcaster, KAN. The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and Madonna had been made aware of this."

Adding to organisers' headaches, Iceland, who performed a heavy metal song while dressed in bondage gear, waved Palestinian flags in front of the camera during a televised backstage segment.

The band, named Hatari, may be reprimanded over the action.

Eurovision released a statement saying: "The Eurovision Song Contest is a non-political event and this directly contradicts the Contest rules. The banners were quickly removed and the consequences of this action will be discussed by the Reference Group (the Contest's executive board) after the Contest."

Hatari's gesture was labelled a "fig-leaf" gesture by Palestinian Campaign For The Academic And Cultural Boycott Of Israel (PACBI), which had demanded all acts pull out of the event.

A spokesperson said: "Palestinian civil society overwhelmingly rejects fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists crossing our peaceful picket line."

Before the final, the band, named Hatari, had challenged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a wrestling match. He did not respond.