Investment in Eurovision has been “really well spent” because it has provided an opportunity for the UK to showcase itself to the world, the minister for the song contest has said.
The Government pledged £10 million in funding to this year’s competition, which is being held in Liverpool on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine.
Eurovision Minister Stuart Andrew said: “I absolutely think any investment we’ve made in this has been really well spent because it’s an opportunity for us to showcase to, on the show itself, 160 million people around the world what Liverpool, what the wider region, what the whole of the UK has to offer.
“That is a massive audience and we’re making sure that we continue to show that we are a great country when it comes to organising huge events like this.
“The feedback we’ve been getting so far is lots of people going home to their countries at the end of this week very, very happy indeed.”
He added: “Liverpool has got a great reputation of being a party city and what they’ve done is just welcomed everybody here so warmly.
“Everybody that I’ve spoken to from many different countries has said they’re huge Eurovision fans, been to many contests and they are citing this as one of the best.”
Mr Andrew, whose Eurovision remit is part of his role as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society, said it was “disappointing” that strikes by rail workers could affect train services to and from the city at the weekend.
Asked if the Government should have taken action to resolve the strikes, he said: “Actually, I think it’s really disappointing that the unions have targeted this event.
“We have to remember that there are a lot of displaced Ukrainians who are coming here to enjoy this and to see their country performing, their cultural heritage, and they’ve made that really difficult.
“There’s offers on the table, they need to get on with accepting that I think.”
“Seeing it live and how extraordinary it is, is just truly wonderful to see,” he said.
The politician said the Ukrainian feel to the contest made it “an even more special Eurovision Song Contest”.
He added: “I think it’s incredibly important to show to our friends in Ukraine that whilst they can’t host this, we are happy to stand side by side with them and make sure it isn’t just the UK hosting this, this is a joint venture between our two nations.
“Seeing some of the extraordinary cultural elements from Ukraine here is very moving.”
He said he was backing United Kingdom entrant Mae Muller to win.
“I think that we have shown last year that we are within play and I hope that we can continue that success,” he said.
“There are clearly other favourites amongst the Eurovision fans.
“The reception Norway, Finland and Sweden got last night was great to see.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is unpredictable so who knows, it’s anyone’s game really.”