Abba star Bjorn Ulvaeus shares message of hope during Eurovision show

ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus rehearses with the cast of Mamma Mia before performing with them at the Olivier Awards 2014 at the Royal
ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus rehearses with the cast of Mamma Mia before performing with them at the Olivier Awards 2014 at the Royal Opera House, London.

Abba star Bjorn Ulvaeus has hailed the Eurovision Song Contest as an “escape” during the coronavirus pandemic, as it was announced that the event would return to Rotterdam next year.

The final of the 65th edition of the event was due to take place on Saturday night in the city in the Netherlands, but was cancelled due to the outbreak.

Ulvaeus, 75, appeared in a pre-recorded video message during the final moments of Eurovision: Shine A Light on BBC One.

Recalling Abba’s win in Brighton with Waterloo in 1974, he said: “The ESC is one hell of a launching pad.

“And it still remains one of the most genuinely joyous event of the TV era and it is so disarmingly European. It also allows you to escape and be happy.

“Everybody knows why there couldn’t be the usual Eurovision final this year.

“But we hope this show will comfort you in some small way, knowing that it will be back next year.

“Very good title by the way – Shine A Light. I’m glad they didn’t choose Waterloo. Long live the Eurovision Song Contest.”

It was also announced that the contest would take place in Rotterdam in 2021, after its producer, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and its Dutch members NPO, NOS and AVROTROS, reached an agreement.

Martin Osterdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor, said in a statement: “We are extremely happy that we can now move forward.

“It’s vitally important that the Eurovision Song Contest returns next year, and we’re pleased to have the necessary commitment from our Members in the Netherlands to bring this much-loved show back to audiences across the world.

“I firmly believe that all of us involved in the Eurovision Song Contest will stand united through challenges and change to bring the Contest back stronger than ever, ensuring its longevity for decades to come.”

Shine A Light was organised to honour all the 41 songs which would have made up this year’s contest, in a non-competitive format, and featured the acts covering Katrina And The Waves’ Love Shine A Light.

It also saw host Graham Norton struggle with a time delay as he spoke to the programme’s main hosts via video-call.

Afterwards, he said: “God, that was awkward. Well, here we are now, back on. But I did mean it, I have found this strangely emotional, this whole evening.”

It followed the BBC’s replacement coverage, also hosted by Norton, in which viewers voted Abba’s song Waterloo as the greatest Eurovision entry.

The track came out top from a list of 19 acts, selected by a panel featuring broadcasters Ken Bruce, Rylan Clark-Neal, Scott Mills and Mel Giedroyc.

The special programme, titled Eurovision: Come Together, saw Norton pay tribute to Sir Terry Wogan, who he succeeded as host of the BBC’s Eurovision coverage.

He told viewers: “I know this isn’t real Eurovision but this is song nine, and it is a tradition that we raise a glass on song nine for the late Sir Terry Wogan.

“As we look back over 64 years of Eurovision, I am sure that for many of you, Sir Terry was a highlight over the years. So we think of him and raise a glass.”

Norton marked song nine because Sir Terry once warned him not to drink alcohol before that point in the contest, in order to stay alert.

UK entries such as Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz, from 1981, and Love Shine A Light by Katrina And The Waves, from 1997, were among the list.

The series also featured an interview with James Newman, who was due to flag the flag for the UK at this year’s content.

Newman, brother of pop star John Newman, was hoping to improve the country’s prospects at the annual event after Michael Rice placed last in 2019 with Bigger Than Us.

Eurovision 2020
James Newman (Victor Frankowski/BBC/PA)

Speaking via videolink, he recalled the moment he found out the contest had been cancelled.

He said: “It was before lockdown and me and my wife were just out for a drive actually. We’d just been out to get some shopping and stuff. And then I got a text and they were like: ‘It’s cancelled.’ I had to have a few minutes to myself.”

He tipped Iceland’s Think About Things by Dadi Og Gagnamagnid as the entry he had been looking forward to seeing.

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