A four-piece band of Italian rockers won the Eurovision Song Contest in the early hours of Sunday, giving one of the countries hit hardest in Europe by the coronavirus pandemic reason to cheer.
Maneskin’s win was only Italy’s third victory in the immensely popular contest and the first since Toto Cutugno took the honour in 1990.
The music festival was cancelled last year amid the pandemic but this year’s event in Rotterdam’s Ahoy arena with its regime of testing and strict hygiene protocols was seen as a step toward a post-COVID-19 return to live entertainment.
“We think that the whole event was a relief. We think that we were really thankful … to have had the chance to be part of this huge event,” Maneskin lead singer Damiano David said.
“This Eurovision means a lot, I think, to the whole of Europe. It’s going to be a lighthouse. So thank you, everybody. Really,” he added.
Italy, the bookmakers’ favourite, trailed Switzerland, France and Malta after the national juries delivered their votes but were propelled to victory by votes from the viewing public.
“The audience is the most important thing, of course,” said bassist Victoria De Angelis.
“So the fact that so many people vote for us, it’s the most meaningful, because that means that those people are coming to our gigs, they are listening to our music. And this has much more value than a jury”
A crowd of 3,500 fans, who all tested negative for the coronavirus, watched the finalists perform live.