Former Swedish champion Loreen takes to the stage at Eurovision grand final

Former Eurovision champion Loreen has taken to the stage in Liverpool in a bid to secure her second win at the contest.

Representing Sweden, the vocalist, who previously triumphed in 2012, performed her anthemic dance-pop song Tattoo for the international voting public, singing from an illuminated enclosed space on the stage.

The 39-year-old could become the first woman – and only the second person – to claim the coveted glass microphone trophy twice.

But she faces competition from Finnish entry Kaarija, the eccentric rapper whose hyperpop hit Cha Cha Cha is also a bookies’ favourite.

There were also eye-catching early performances from French entry La Zarra, who wore a black sparkly full-length dress and circular headpiece, as well as Spanish singer Blanca Paloma, and the Cyprus pop vocalist Andrew Lambrou.

Twenty-six acts are performing at the M&S Bank Arena to an expected global audience of 160 million viewers, according to the BBC.

The city is hosting on behalf of war-torn Ukraine, who won last year’s contest but are unable to host due to the Russian invasion.

The night opened with a pre-recorded video featuring last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra – and a surprise appearance from the Princess of Wales, playing the piano.

They were also joined by 2022 runner-up Sam Ryder playing guitar on the top of the Liver Building on the Liverpool waterfront, with Andrew Lloyd Webber on piano.

The Chemical Brothers track Hey Boy Hey Girl was played as the countries competing in the final began to walk onto the stage with their national flags.

Eurovision 2023
United Kingdom entrant Mae Muller (Aaron Chown/PA)

The UK’s Mae Muller walked out onto the stage before the crowd were treated to a performance from Verka Serduchka, who entered the contest for Ukraine in 2007.

Graham Norton welcomed viewers to the final alongside alongside co-hosts Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina.

Waddingham said the UK was “so very proud” to be “taking the reins” and hosting on behalf of Ukraine, while Sanina thanked the British public.

Norton, the UK’s long-standing commentator of the show, added: “United we are – well, out here. But backstage the competition is fierce.”

Dixon wore a one-shouldered blue sparkly dress, while Sanina wore a full-length yellow dress with a structured neckline, and Waddingham styled an off-the-shoulder purple metallic dress.

Eurovision 2023
Hosts Alesha Dixon, Julia Sanina, Hannah Waddingham and Graham Norton (Aaron Chown/PA)

Preparations for the final were dampened by the news that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had been barred from making an address.

On Thursday the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the event, said it had declined Mr Zelensky’s request to speak on Saturday over fears it could politicise the contest.

The move prompted criticism from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his predecessor Boris Johnson, among other figures.

The grand final comes after a week of festivities in Liverpool, with two semi-finals dictating the line-up for Saturday’s showdown.

The so-called “big five” nations – the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain – each get a free pass to the final because of their financial contributions to the event, along with last year’s winners Ukraine.

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