Eurovision hosts in peace plea as contest kicks off


The Eurovision Song Contest kicked off amid promises the competition brings a chance for countries to "set aside any differences we have" as Europe faces "darker times".

The show began with the representatives of the 26 participating countries walking across the stage as models in futuristic costumes strutted past.

Eurovision dancers

Hosts Petra Mede and Mans Zelmerlow welcomed the audience with a reminder that the competition was founded in 1954 after Europe had been ravaged by war.

Mans said: "Once again, Europe is facing darker times."

Petra added: "Now we set aside any differences we have."

Mans Zelmerlow and Petra Mede at Eurovision

Graham Norton is guiding UK viewers through the grand final on BBC One, which is taking place at the Globe Arena in Stockholm.

He has said he will have Sir Terry Wogan's voice in his head as he narrates the show for British audiences.

Graham took over the job in 2009 and he will be narrating his first Eurovision since Sir Terry died in January.

The late broadcaster was the BBC's Eurovision commentator for almost 35 years.

Sir Terry Wogan

The TV presenter will lead a toast to his predecessor during song number nine - which this year will be host country Sweden's entry, If I Were Sorry, performed by Frans.

The UK's contestants Joe and Jake will be the 25th act to perform, treating the audience to their song You're Not Alone, while global star Justin Timberlake will provide half-time entertainment.

Joe and Jake at Eurovision

Welcoming audiences, Graham said: "In previous years a lot of the dross has been filtered out. Not tonight, a couple of corkers have slipped through the net."

Aside from host country Sweden and the "big five" of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, those in the running for the Eurovision trophy are Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Australia, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland, Israel, Lithuania, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Russia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Malta.