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Ahead of Eurovision final, gay rights activists are detained in Moscow.
From Eurovision organizers, who host a concert that has featured numerous openly gay acts, there has been total silence. Graham Norton, an openly gay Brit who will be a commentator on the event for U.K. television, reportedly refused to comment on the issue at a press conference this week.
Russian authorities have instead focused on promoting the event as a sign of the country’s international importance.
Last week, state-run television broadcast a visit to the concert site by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The streets of Moscow are plastered with posters advertising the Eurovision final in the city’s enormous Olympisky Stadium, for which tickets initially sold for $1,000. (Click here for more about Eurovision in Moscow.)
This year’s final is the most expensive in Eurovision’s history, with Moscow shelling out $40 million to host the event, which organizers estimate is watched by about 100 million people each year. The three-hour show will feature performances by Cirque du Soleil and a video link-up with cosmonauts holed up in the International Space Station.
Moscow won the right to host after Dima Bilan — a man, incidentally, dogged by rumors of homosexuality which may fade after his recent marriage to a woman — won the contest held in Belgrade last year.
More than 10,000 people have flown to Moscow to attend the final, Bloomberg reported. Twenty-five contestants will compete for the title.
Felipe Rubio, 31, a Spaniard who works for the European Union in The Hague, flew in from the Netherlands for the event, his first ever live Eurovision. “The Russians know how to do lights and glitter, so in that sense I think it will be a success,” he said. He called on international organizations, rather than Eurovision, to denounce the violent breakup of the gay pride parade.
“Russia wants to give the impression that it’s European. But this doesn’t happen in other [European] countries.”
Nikolai Alekseev, who organized the gay pride parade and was also detained, called on all contestants to boycott the Eurovision final.
“The Russian government is using this year’s Eurovision in Moscow as a gala showpiece to show the world how far the country has improved since the early 1990s. However,
what was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has traveled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights,” Alekseev said in a statement. “This episode has shamed the Russian government and Moscow authorities before the world.”
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