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Graham Norton addressed the EBU’s decision (Picture: John Phillips/Getty Images)
Eurovision host Graham Norton has described the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) as ruling ‘with an iron fist’ after its decision to block Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky from speaking at the final.
The presenter hailed a ‘golden age’ of the competition on the eve of the grand final in Liverpool and said he had no involvement in the decision not to let Mr Zelensky address the worldwide audience of 160 million.
The EBU, which produces the event, said on Thursday night that it had declined Mr Zelensky’s request to speak on Saturday over fears it could politicise the contest.
‘The Eurovision Song Contest is an international entertainment show and governed by strict rules and principles which have been established since its creation,’ their statement begins.
‘As part of these, one of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event.
‘This principle prohibits the possibility of making political or similar statements as part of the contest.’
Presideny Zelensky has been barred from speaking at the Grand Final (Picture: EPA)
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won Eurovision last year (Picture: AP)
The EBU went on to commend Mr Zelensky for his ‘laudable intentions’.
At a press conference on Friday, Norton said: ‘As far as I know, it’s an EBU decision and, as we know, the EBU, they rule with an iron fist so what they say goes.’
He added he was not able to laugh at the acts in the contest any more because the standard has improved so much since he started commentating on the show in 2009.
He told journalists: ‘I personally think we’re going through a golden age of Eurovision.
It is against Eurovision’s rules to make political statements (Picture: REUTERS)
‘I really think the shows of the last few years have been great, really good songs.
‘There was always kind of a nostalgic thing and a kitschy thing and a campy thing and there’s a little bit of that left but, actually, now it’s just a bunch of great pop songs.
‘It is a serious song contest. I still have a joke from the commentary box but they’re different jokes.
‘You can’t laugh at the acts any more because they’re so good.’
Mae Muller said this year feels ‘very, very special’ (Picture: SplashNews.com)
This comes as UK entry Mae Muller called it a huge honour to see Ukrainian flags in the streets, as Liverpool prepared to host on behalf of the war-torn country.
She said: ‘I think this is what Eurovision’s about. It’s proof that us, as human beings, can come together and we can support each other.
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‘It feels like a very, very special year and no matter what the outcome is tomorrow night, I will look back at this moment with such a sense of pride.’
The 25-year-old singer added that she was ‘ready to get this show on the road’.
The Eurovision Grand Final airs Saturday, May 13 at 8pm on BBC One and iPlayer.
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