The official keys of the Eurovision Song Contest have been handed from the previous host city Turin to Liverpool in a grand ceremony.
Mayor of Turin Stefano Lo Russo and the mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, sealed the handover, known as the Insignia, with a handshake.
It was announced Britain would host the contest on behalf of Ukraine after it was decided that the war-torn country could not hold the event for ‘safety and security reasons’.
The Ukrainian entry, Kalush Orchestra, won the annual competition last year in an emotional victory in Turin, Italy, and it is traditional that the winning country hosts the event the following year.
The United Kingdom were chosen as hosts after singer Sam Ryder ‘destroyed the stigma’ of underwhelming performances and finished in second place last year.
The international music show will take place at the 11,000-capacity Liverpool Arena in May, culminating in the grand final on May 13.
The Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson and the Mayor of Turin Stefano Lo Russo pose for a picture while officially handing over the Eurovision Keys to Liverpool
The Royal Liver Building in Liverpool, Merseyside, is illuminated as the Eurovision Song Contest is officially passed to the city
During the ceremony, which was broadcast on BBC Two, Mr Lo Russo said to Ms Anderson: ‘A little bit of advice – enjoy the event, include everybody, engage the whole city, be proud for such an incredible international stage for you, for Ukraine and for peace.’
She thanked him for his kind words, adding: ‘For me, it started on Sunday when we met and you talked about all the wonderful impact that Eurovision has had on your city.
‘I’m really proud to be able to host Eurovision for Liverpool but especially proud to do it on behalf of Ukraine.’
The event held at St George’s Hall in Liverpool was presented by Rylan Clark and AJ Odudu, who also revealed which countries would compete in which semi-final for the song contest.
A total of 37 countries are set to take part in Eurovision this year, with Ukraine automatically qualifying as 2022’s winners as well as the so-called ‘big five’ UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – who each get a free pass because of their financial contributions to the event.
It was announced that the 15 countries who will be performing in the first semi-final on May 9 include Ireland, Serbia, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Croatia, Malta, Sweden, Moldova, Switzerland, Israel, the Netherlands, Finland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, semi-final two on May 11 will see Armenia, Cyprus, Romania, Denmark, Belgium, Iceland, Greece, Estonia, Albania, Australia, Austria, Lithuania, San Marino, Slovenia, Georgia and Poland go head to head.
Sam Ryder achieved second place for United Kingdom at Eurovision 2022 with his song Space Man
The international music show will take place at the 11,000-capacity Liverpool Arena in May, culminating in the grand final on May 13
Ukrainian refugees who have settled in Liverpool, a volunteer from the Ukrainian community and young people from a local school also assisted the presenters in unveiling which semi-finals the big five and Ukraine will be voting in.
One of the volunteers, Ukrainian refugee Anastasia, said her country winning the competition last year was ‘unforgettable’, adding: ‘I’m really happy for Ukraine and thanks for all the people for supporting us in Great Britain.’
The ceremony hall in Liverpool was also decorated with the newly unveiled branding and slogan for 2023 Eurovision, which is in the colour scheme of blue and yellow in honour of Ukraine.
Earlier on Tuesday, it was revealed the slogan would be ‘United By Music’ while the artwork depicts hearts beating together in the colours of the Ukrainian and UK flags.
The special handover event opened with welcome speeches to the audience by Mr Lo Russo, Ms Anderson and Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan.
A total of 37 countries are set to take part in Eurovision this year, with Ukraine automatically qualifying as 2022’s winners
In a video message, the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said: ‘I wish that Eurovision in Liverpool, the legendary city of music, will be remembered as a great musical and cultural event. We’ll be watching and cheering.’
He added: ‘I believe that the next Eurovision will be held in Ukraine.’
Famous Ukrainian faces also expressed the importance of Liverpool hosting on behalf of the war-torn country in a video montage.
Among those was Eurovision commentator Timur Miroshnychenko who said: ‘Eurovision is love, music and diversity.’
Meanwhile, musician Julia Sanina added that the combination of the cultures of Liverpool and Ukraine coming together ‘is going to be something unbelievable’.
In a number of other video montages, BBC Radio DJ Scott Mills reflected on the significance of Eurovision within the music world and Liverpudlians spoke of their excitement to welcome the song contest to their city.
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