Eurovision 2024: The controversies, the boycotts, how it works and where to watch

Clockwise from top left: Bashar Murad, the UK entry, Olly Alexander, Eden Golan, Israel's contestant, Spain's Nebulossa.

Word by Rachel Dixon, multimedia producer

The UK's Eurovision entry, Olly Alexander, has released his song ahead of the 68th edition of the contest in May, meaning the countdown to the hotly anticipated event is well under way.

Years and Years frontman Alexander dropped the official video for dance track 'Dizzy' on Friday morning.

But as the London-born star readies himself to take to the Eurovision stage, the competition is already mired in controversies.

From boycotts to double standards and the tricky competition stages, here's what you need to know ahead of the grand Eurovision final in May.

Who is the UK entry?

With Olly Alexander representing the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024, the expectations for a potential UK victory are higher than before.

It's hoped he will rank above last year's entry Mae Muller, who came second to last with her single "I Wrote A Song".

Alexander's track, "Dizzy" was written last summer and is about "an overwhelming feeling of love for somebody that’s so intense it turns your world upside down."

He is better known for his project Years and Years which topped the UK charts with their song "King", as well as his duets with Kylie Minogue and Elton John.

Away from music, Alexander starred as Ritchie in Russell T Davies' multi-award winning Channel 4 series It's A Sin.

Iceland may have a Palestinian entry

While Iceland has not decided whether it will enter the competition this year, a Palestinian singer is tipped to represent the nation if it does.

Bashar Murad, from Jerusalem, uses his music to raise awareness for Palestine and more recently those impacted by the Israel-Hamas war.

The video for his entry "Wild West" shows interviews with Palestinians speaking about how music has helped those seeking shelter in refugee camps from Israeli airstrikes, alongside his Western cowboys theme.

In Iceland, people of any nationality are able to apply for Eurovision, as long as they are able to sing their song in Icelandic.

A decision will be made after the finals of the Icelandic song contest Söngvakeppnin on Saturday.

Israel controversy

Fans are planning to boycott the contest this year in protest against Israel competing amid a spiraling civilian death toll in Gaza.

Israel made its debut at the contest in 1973 as the first non-European country. It was granted permission to participate as it was a member of the European Broadcast Union.

But anger has grown over Israel's military actions in Gaza, where more than 30,000 people have been killed, many of them women and children, since the war began on October 7, when Hamas militant group stormed Israel, killing 1,200 people.

Eden Golan, Israel's 2024 entry. Credit: Eurovision

Iceland's broadcaster has not decided on whether to enter, "regarding Israel's participation in the contest, despite the war in Gaza," the Icelandic Broadcasting Authority, RUV said in a statement.

Ireland's national broadcaster RTE received hundreds of emails urging a boycott in a stance against the conflict, but will be competing.

More than 1,000 Swedish musicians - including Dancing On My Own singer Robyn - have accused Eurovision organisers of "double standards" in an open letter.

Britain's Alexander has also taken a public stance against Israel, and signed an open letter from LGBTQ+ activist group Voices4London, calling for a ceasefire and for aid to be allowed inside Gaza.

What's happening with Russia?

Eurovision organisers have been accused of "double standards," over its decision to ban Russia after its invasion of Ukraine but allowing Israel to compete.

Russia has not competed since 2021 and will not be taking part in the 2024 competition.

Due to the war, Ukraine was unable to host the event after their entry "Stefania" by Kalush Orchestra won in 2022.

This meant the UK, which came second with Sam Ryder's "Star Man", hosted last year's competition.

alyona alyona and Jerry Heil will represent Ukraine in Malmö. Credit: Eurovision

Duo alyona alyona and Jerry Heil will represent Ukraine this year, with their song Teresa & Maria about "women who carry a titanic weight on their shoulders."

Sexism from Spain?

Spain’s Eurovision song “Zorra,” by duo Nebulossa, is causing a storm among conservatives and feminists, as the title is used as a slur.

The Feminist Movement of Madrid has called for it to be withdrawn from Eurovision, saying it insults women.

Singer María Bas argues her lyrics describe how a woman is referred to as a “zorra” no matter what she does, and the song uses the word almost as a protest chant.

Both Spanish broadcaster RTVE and Eurovision's organisers have approved Spain’s entry.

Spain's prime minister waded in this week, saying he liked the song and joked about how right-wing critics might have preferred the anthem of the former dictatorship of late Gen. Francisco Franco as Spain's Eurovision submission.

Rules, rounds and how Eurovision works

This year Eurovision is being held in Malmö Rådhus, after Sweden's Loreen won the competition in 2023 for the second time with her song "Tattoo".

Currently the participating countries are selecting their entries with song contests in each nation.

The semi-finals will take place next, where countries are put into different "pots" and are able to vote on who will get through to the finals.

Sweden, as the host country, along with the five members of the so-called ‘Big 5’ - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom - do not compete in the semi-finals and instead straight through to the main event.

Each Big 5 is given a pot, which its domestic audience is allowed to vote on. This will take place on Tuesday, May 7 or Thursday, May 9.

All successful singers will perform in the grand final.

Then each country will share their judging panel's points and this will be added to the public vote, to determine the winner.

Both semi-finals and the grand final will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Saturday, May 11.

Catch up on the latest entertainment news with ITV's Unscripted podcast with Nina Nannar