Eurovision fever starts with an access-all-areas pass

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Monday: Eurovision Welcomes the World (BBC1, 6.30pm)

Last year, Sam Ryder finished second in the Eurovision Song Contest – and after so many years of languishing at the bottom of the table, for many UK fans that was as good as a win.

Then when the actual winners, Ukraine, couldn’t host this year’s contest, the UK stepped in, giving us another reason to catch Eurovision fever.

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So, it’s perhaps unsurprising that this year, the BBC are going all out to celebrate the competition with a whole week of programmes building up to the main event in Liverpool on Saturday, May 13.

It begins tonight with Eurovision Welcomes the World, which sees Rylan and Liverpool-born actress Sunetra Sarker giving viewers the highlights of the National Lottery’s Big Eurovision Welcome.

The pair were given an access-all-areas pass to the Turquoise Carpet Opening Ceremony in Liverpool, where will they be meeting some of acts who are hoping to succeed Kalush Orchestra as winners.

Rylan, who will be hosting Radio 2’s coverage of Saturday’s final is certainly excited, saying: “From being part of the UK delegation since 2018, Eurovision has become such a big part of my life and I think the scale of it this year is going to be like nothing we’ve seen before.”

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The Eurovision preparations continue later this evening with Eurovision Calling: Jason and Chelcee’s Ultimate Guide, hosted by comedian Jason Manford and singer-songwriter Chelcee Grimes.

Together, they’ll be finding out how the contest became the world’s largest live music event, with the power to create global superstars and change lives.

Jason meets the UK’s last winner, Katrina Leskanich from Katrina and the Waves, who won in 1997, as well as the aforementioned Sam Ryder and this year’s UK entrant Mae Muller. Meanwhile, Chelcee goes behind the scenes of the show in Liverpool and unearths some Eurovision trivia.

Jason admits he hasn’t always known his Abba from his Netta, but by the end of this documentary, he should be an expert.

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He says: “As a glory-hunting latecomer to the Eurovision phenomena, I’m fascinated to speak to the people who create it, perform in it and most of all who love it! And discover why it means so much to so many people around the world and why is it considered the greatest show on Earth.”

Rylan and Sunetra SarkerRylan and Sunetra Sarker
Rylan and Sunetra Sarker

Then on Tuesday and Thursday, the live semi-finals take place, giving us a chance to assess Mae’s competition.

However, just in case that gets her feeling the pressure, on Friday Fleur East brings us Everyone’s a Winner, which runs down the 20 most successful Eurovision songs that failed to take home the top prize.

Fleur says: “I’m so excited to be hosting my own pre-Eurovision party in Liverpool, celebrating some of the songs that didn’t quite win, but still went on to become massive hits around the world. This is a top twenty countdown with a real difference, including tracks we all know and love, plus a few surprises.”

And as Sam Ryder could tell you, there’s definitely no shame in coming second…

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