BBC Eurovision commentators Rylan Clark and Scott Mills have stressed the contest is non-political after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was blocked from addressing the grand final over fears it could politicise the event.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the contest, said on Thursday night that it had declined Mr Zelensky’s request to speak to the event’s audience on Saturday.
He had wanted to make an unannounced video appearance and had been expected to implore the global audience of millions to continue backing his country in its fight to repel Russian invaders.
The EBU said Mr Zelensky had “laudable intentions” but “regrettably” his request was against the rules.
On Friday morning, Clark said: “At the end of the day we are commentators so we don’t get involved in show format. I just think Eurovision, people say it is political – votes here, votes there.
“From being on the inside it is the least political experience you could ever have, actually.”
Radio DJ Mills added: “People always ask, ‘Do you think it is political?’ It really isn’t. It is a song contest.”
Clark continued: “It is a song contest and that is what we are here to say.”
The pair, who provided TV commentary for the two semi-finals this week and will host radio coverage of the grand final, also stressed that as last year’s winner, Ukraine and its culture were being celebrated across Liverpool throughout the event.
Clark said: “Ukraine, this is their party in our country.”
“We always said that we would be true to that because they were the winner and I think it is very visible in the city,” added Mills.
160 million viewers worldwide
They spoke at the British Music Experience on the Liverpool waterfront, where Zoe Ball hosted a special edition of her BBC Radio 2 breakfast show which featured guests including last year’s UK entrant Sam Ryder and The Fizz, featuring members of former Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz.
In its statement on Thursday, the EBU noted that 11 Ukrainian artists, including last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra, are performing and 37 locations from around Ukraine are being shown.
The BBC has said the broadcast of this year’s contest is expected to be watched by more than 160 million viewers worldwide.
Kalush Orchestra won last year’s contest but, owing to the Russian invasion of the country, hosting duties were awarded to the runner-up, the UK.
Mr Zelensky said earlier this week that he would have preferred Eurovision to take place in a neighbouring country.
Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I have great respect for the United Kingdom and its society. It is an amazing country.
“From the very start my opinion has been that if we can’t host Eurovision it should take place in one of the countries that share a border with us, such as Slovakia, Poland or any other country which our people can reach easily. Something nearby.”
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