The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is entering what is probably the most important phase under strict security precautions: the grand finale. Tonight (9 p.m.) 26 countries will compete against each other in the world’s largest singing competition in Malmö, southern Sweden.

This year, the otherwise colorful and happy festival is overshadowed by the Gaza war. The police are on alert, keeping security high and supported by security forces from Denmark and Norway. Germany is trying to escape the curse of eternal last place with the artist Isaak and the song “Always On The Run”.

A few hours before the final, pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the entrance area of ​​the Finnish broadcaster Yle called for a boycott of the show. About 40 people were in the lobby with protest posters and Palestinian flags, as Yle reported. Protester Wilhelm Blomberg told the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper that they would not stop the workers from doing their work, but wanted to draw their attention to the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of people have once again gathered on the streets in Malmö to demonstrate against Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). This time, however, there were significantly fewer than expected, the police said. The emergency services estimated that there were around 6,000 to 8,000 participants at the demonstration from the “Stop Israel” network. The organizers had hoped for around 20,000 participants. They marched through the streets with Palestinian flags and signs. According to the police, the meeting was peaceful and smooth.

Thousands of people were already on the streets protesting on Thursday, while Israeli artist Eden Golan was on stage with her song “Hurricane” at the second semi-final at the Malmö Arena. For safety reasons, the singer must be closely accompanied by staff. According to the police, the protests were peaceful. The ESC is avowedly a non-political event, but often in the wake of world politics.

For Golan, the headwinds did not diminish her success – she secured Israel a place in the final. Israel made up a lot of ground in the bookmakers’ odds after the performance. This is traditionally seen as a sure sign that she will be well received by the audience in the final and thus gives her a realistic chance of winning.

The acts Baby Lasagna from Croatia (“Rim Tim Tagi Dim”) and Nemo from Switzerland (“The Code”) are considered to have particularly great opportunities. This year, Germany is in third place out of 26, after Sweden and Ukraine and ahead of Luxembourg. Thorsten Schorn will lead the final evening as a commentator for the German audience for the first time. He succeeds Peter Urban, who commented on the ESC for 25 years. Viewers can vote by phone call, text message and with an app.