Flag Policy, Booing, and Controversy – the lows of Eurovision 2024

Whilst most people can all agree that the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest was an incredible show, I’m sure we can also agree that it was probably the most controversial edition of all time. From poor and disrespectful behaviour by some fans and artists, an unusual flag-banning policy by the EBU, and some non-family-friendly staging and performances – we take a short look at some of the issues. All thoughts are my own, and are not necessarily the views of our website.

Firstly, the 2024 flag policy at the Malmö Arena:

Flag waving by fans has always been a big thing at Eurovision in recent years. Fans are able to support their home country or favourite song’s country during the show, and flags even help out the cameramen/production team when trying to find supporters from a certain country after they have performed. This year (and apparently last year), only flags of competing countries, plus the generic rainbow flag were allowed inside the arena. This meant that flags such as the EU flag and non-binary flag were banned, and taken from queuing fans by the security team. This personally happened to me. In show of support of the Netherlands’ song ‘Europapa’ (before the song was banned from the contest), I’d modified an EU flag into a wearable costume. I assumed that this would have been fine, as in Joost’s performance, other performers had a similar costume featuring the blue background and yellow stars of the European Union flag.

The security team didn’t listen to my plea though, and said I either had to take off the flag costume and give it to them, or pay to use a locker to store it until after the show. As this was during the Saturday afternoon, I explained that I wouldn’t even be appearing in the live TV show, as it was purely a rehearsal, and even the act effectively wear the EU flag. I was told that like the flag of Palestine, the EU flag was seen as political, so not allowed. In the queue, there was actually a lady that works at the EU – and she couldn’t understand the ban either, so was on my side. Needless to say, I respectfully but begrudgingly handed over the EU flag to the security guard as I wanted to watch the show that I had paid to see. I genuinely cannot fault the police and security in Malmö – they were just doing their job by keeping everybody safe, although maybe some of the rules they had been given may not have been thought through too well.

‘Banned’ flags still were getting into the arena, despite this ‘policy’, however. EU flags. Canadian flags. Even the non-binary flag was smuggled in by Switzerland’s winner Nemo, as he proudly stated himself. Other artists such as Bambie Thug supported Palestine during Eurovision week by wearing a keffiyah, and even Portugal painted her nails in the keffiyah’s design. Why did the EU not take any disciplinary action over these artists that were clearly breaking the rules? It was annoying and actually quite hypocritical. The only solitary delegation to get punished were the Dutch. I applaud the EBU for removing the Netherlands after Joost’s alleged threatening behaviour against the female reporter, however nothing really got said when he rudely covered his head during the Thursday night Press Conference, attempting to stir things up, asking ‘why not?’ when Eden Golan was advised not to answer a question regarding her causing a safety concern by a reporter. Equally, the utter disrespect that Marina from Greece showed when she pretended to fall asleep when Eden was talking, and Bambie Thug’s appalling behaviour throughout the week were all overlooked.

In a way, it does make sense to only have flags of competing countries allowed in the arena. But why the rainbow flag too? Playing devil’s advocate – from the EBU’s point, wouldn’t this be a similar issue to the European Union flag’s inclusion? Some fans are gay, some are not. Some countries are in the EU, some are not. Either you allow every form of sexual orientation’s flag, or don’t allow any. I can understand the frustration of fans that identify as trans / non-binary etc, and who feel that the rainbow flag doesn’t include them. But without allowing every single flag of how people may identify (even as straight, if such a flag exists), they are always going to offend somebody, unintentionally or not. Maybe there should only be country flags allowed next year?

There seemed to be plenty of double standards on show this year. Bambie clearly had an issue with Israel’s participation in the contest, although continued to compete, rather than making a statement by withdrawing. Only after the show finished, did they state their true feelings to the camera – “f*** them” (in regards to the EBU). Obviously promoting their own career was equally important as disagreeing with Israel’s participation. The same goes to many Eurovision fans who I think should be ashamed and disgusted in themselves in their treatment of Eden.

We were inside the arena for the Thursday and Saturday afternoon ‘Family’ preview shows, and the amount of booing towards Israel was massive. Even fans wanting to drown out the noise with cheers and applause found it difficult to address the balance. I almost had an argument with a group of Spanish fans behind me, who booed through the entirety of Eden’s song. They didn’t appreciate it when I returned the favour, smugly booing Nebulossa! (Even though I like the song!) Why boo and hiss a twenty-year-old singer with absolutely nothing to do with the current issues in the Middle-East? Out of all of the performers in the contest this year, I honestly can say I believe she is the bravest of them all. To perform so faultlessly with all that hatred directed at her would not at all been easy. There were some more civilized actions by fans that didn’t agree with Israel being there, however. They simply left the auditorium, and returned after she had finished performing. Very respectful, I thought. That’s how you make a stand – not by bullying somebody.

Another issue that many have been complaining about is the over-the-top sexualisation of some of the staging this year. Plenty of skin on show, Olly’s performance was practically an upside-down orgy, and we had an elderly Spanish lady with two young men stripping off in front of her. Switch the tables, having two young ladies and an elderly guy, and the media would have gone wild! Windows95man did it correctly. Slightly tongue-in-cheek, but nothing too risque. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way a prude – but I think that in future years, delegations need to understand that Eurovision is a family show. With viewers ranging anywhere between 8 to 88, it’s unfair to parents and those with more conservative views to be subjected to soft-porn.

Just because acts and delegations think that something on stage is acceptable, other viewers may not. This goes for whichever preference you may have – gay or straight. Czechia and Slovenia’s outfits will have raised a few eyebrows too! Eurovision does of course have a high fanbase from the LGBTQ+ community,  but they must understand that Eurovision is for everybody too.  We of course also need to discuss Bambie’s cult-like performance. How many terrified children would have had nightmares after seeing that? A ring of candles, a pentrogram, a frightening devil man, complete with Bambie demonically screaming at the camera was not pleasant even for me – and I love watching horror movies. A complete change from the performance on the Late Late Show. Purely a statement to make and cause controversy, and boost a somewhat average song, I’m sure.

Why did we seem to have so many agendas being pushed this year? I absolutely loved Nemo’s winning song, and it was my second favourite after Croatia. Their song, performance and staging were all perfect – but it seems that Nemo couldn’t do a single interview without making a statement that they were non-binary. Should it really matter? The same applies with Olly being the first ‘openly gay’ act for the UK, and Bambie Thug being a ‘queer’ ‘witch’ as they screamed out during a press conference. If the song and performer are good enough, why do things like this to be talked about constantly? Does Bambie think that a whole new group of witch Eurovision fans/performers will flock over to Switzerland next year?

In my opinion, Olly seemed to only get chosen to represent the United Kingdom as he was a member of the highly successful ‘Years & Years’. Was he the best singer that the BBC could have chosen this year? Absolutely not. Years & Years were never a live touring act at heart, so as soon as the BBC realized Olly’s live vocals would not be too great when performing live, he should have been scrapped, and someone else should have been chosen in the selection process. It almost reminded me of the likes of X Factor / The Voice, where someone simply can’t sing and perform. There’s always a sob story or some other motive. I honestly couldn’t care less about a performer’s background – it should be the song/performance/staging/talent that is the defining factor. Remember when Russia sent wheelchair-bound, Julia Samoylova? I’m sure it was by no-means out of the goodness of their heart – just a sneaky way of gaining a few public sympathy votes. Eurovision should not be heading down this path! Nobody knew anything about Sam Ryder, and he stormed it!

Finally, we’d love to know your thoughts as to whether the juries should be given less influence on the final result. Is 50% too much? Two years on the run, the public’s choice has finished in 2nd place. Should the EBU maybe try something like 33.3% Jury, 66.6% Televote next year? The juries cannot be trusted, it seems. As we await the full rundown of each juror’s points, we can predict now that most will have given Israel bottom placing. It normally happens with Armenia/Azerbaijan every year. People’s personal beliefs and opinions on a country shouldn’t be effecting there vote.

What changes would you make in 2025?

Featured image –  Wikipedia


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