Switzerland's Nemo wins Eurovision amid contestant disqualification and Gaza protests

Swedish actress and presenter Petra Mede (R) and Swedish-US actress and presenter Malin Akerman applaud as winner Swiss singer Nemo (L) celebrates after the final of the 68th Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2024 on May 11, 2024 at the Malmo Arena in Ma (Photo by JESSICA GOW/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

Swiss singer Nemo became the first nonbinary winner of the Eurovision Song Contest early Sunday, clinching the title with "The Code," an operatic pop-rap song that reflects their journey toward embracing a non-gender identity. 

Winning over Croatian rocker Baby Lasagna with the highest combination of points from national juries and global viewers, 24-year-old Nemo secured Switzerland's first victory since Celine Dion, competing under the Swiss flag, won in 1988. The contest has long been a supportive space for the LGBT community.

"Thank you so much," Nemo said after the result from Saturday's final was announced soon after midnight. "I hope this contest can live up to its promise and continue to stand for peace and dignity for every person."

Hours before the final, Dutch competitor Joost Klein was expelled from the contest over a backstage altercation that was being investigated by police.

This decision by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) came after Swedish police began investigating a complaint made by a female member of the production crew concerning Klein.

The EBU stated that it would be inappropriate for Klein to participate while the legal process was ongoing.

Klein, a 26-year-old singer and rapper, was a strong contender in the competition with his song "Europapa," an upbeat Euro-techno tribute to Europe's diversity and his late parents. 


Singer Joost Klein representing Netherlands with the song "Europe" attends a press conference prior to the final after the second semi-final of the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) at the Malmo Arena, in Malmo, on May 9, 2024. (Photo by JESSICA GOW/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS expressed shock and dismay at Klein's disqualification from the Eurovision Song Contest, calling it "very heavy and disproportionate." 

The broadcaster lamented the potentially significant achievement lost for Klein and his fans. 

Later, it issued a statement saying that as Klein came offstage after Thursday’s semifinal, he was filmed without his consent and, in turn, made a "threatening movement" toward the camera.

The broadcaster said Klein did not touch the camera or the camera person.

"We are very disappointed and upset for the millions of fans who were so excited for tonight," it said. "What Joost brought to the Netherlands and Europe shouldn’t have ended this way."

This last-minute disqualification of a contestant is unprecedented in Eurovision's 68-year history, although there have been instances where countries boycotted or were expelled from the event, such as Russia's removal following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Controversies and tensions at this year's Eurovision

The final proceeded amid these challenges, featuring various performances from raucous rock to grand operatic entries.


Eden Golan from Israel performs on stage during The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final at Malmö Arena on May 11, 2024 in Malmo, Sweden.

Despite Eurovision's motto "united by music," this year's event has been marked by significant discord and geopolitical tensions. Several performers expressed concerns, leading to notable absences from the traditional pre-final events. 

The Irish performer issued a statement saying the absence was due to a situation "which I felt needed urgent attention from the EBU" and telling fans: "I hope to see you on the stage later."

French singer Slimane cut short his song "Mon Amour" at the dress rehearsal to give a speech urging people to be "united by music, yes — but with love, for peace."

Norwegian singer Alessandra Mele, who had been due to announce her country’s jury results, said that she was withdrawing because "there is a genocide going on" and the united by music slogan was "empty words." 

Finland's announcer, musician Kaarija, also pulled out, saying announcing the votes "does not feel right."

The controversy intensified with Israel's participation amid its ongoing conflict with Gaza. Israeli singer Eden Golan faced boos during rehearsals but advanced to the finals. 

This participation sparked widespread protests and demands for a boycott, emphasizing the deep divisions present. 


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (C) wearing the keffiyeh scarf, is removed by police during a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Malmo Arena venue ahead of the final of the 68th Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2024 on May 11, 2024 in Mal

Understanding Eurovision

For American audiences unfamiliar with the contest, the Eurovision Song Contest, commonly known simply as Eurovision, is an annual international song competition among European Broadcasting Union member countries (EBU). 

Established in 1956, it is one of the world's longest-running television programs and was initially created to foster unity among European nations post-World War II. The competition has expanded to include over 40 countries, extending beyond traditional geographical Europe to include nations like Israel and Australia.

Each participating country submits a song to be performed on live television and radio, then competes against the others for votes to determine the most popular song in the competition.

Eurovision is renowned for its eclectic mix of music styles—from pop and rock to folk and classical—and flamboyant performances. Eurovision has had a significant impact on the music industry by launching the careers of international stars such as ABBA and Celine Dion. The contest is celebrated for its ability to bring together different cultures and musical styles in a vibrant and dynamic showcase, making it a beloved tradition watched by millions around the globe each year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.