Olly Alexander: I respect fans boycotting Eurovision but attacks on contestants are ‘extreme’

Olly Alexander performs during a Eurovision party in Stockholm on April 14
Olly Alexander performs during a Eurovision party in Stockholm on April 14 - CHRISTINE OLSSON/TT/SHUTTERSTOCK
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Olly Alexander has said he respects fans’ right to boycott Eurovision over Israel’s inclusion, but feels some of the language used against contestants has been “very extreme”.

The Years & Years singer, who will represent the UK at the competition in Malmo, Sweden next week, rejected calls for him to withdraw from the contest over the conflict in Gaza earlier this year.

In a new BBC documentary which follows the 33-year-old as he prepares for the show, he has talked about making the “very hard decision” to continue with the competition.

In the documentary, Olly Alexander’s Road To Eurovision 24, the singer says: “A lot of the contestants and myself have been having a lot of comments that are like, ‘You are complicit in a genocide by taking part in Eurovision’, which is quite extreme. It’s very extreme.

“I understand where that sentiment is coming from but I think it’s not correct. It’s an incredibly complicated political situation, one that I’m not qualified to speak on.

“The backdrop to this is actual immense suffering. It’s a humanitarian crisis, a war. It just so happens there’s a song contest going on at the same time that I’m a part of.”

‘I’m focusing on a good performance’

“People are in despair and want to do something. People should do what’s right for them.

“If they want to boycott Eurovision, if they don’t feel comfortable watching, that’s their choice, and I respect that.

“Eurovision is, it’s meant to be like an apolitical contest, but that’s like a fantasy.”

In the programme, the singer says he is taking everything “day by day”, adding: “My plan is to just focus on putting on a good performance in Malmo.

“My team, everyone’s worked so hard, and we’re in the final stretch now.”

Following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, Queers for Palestine circulated a letter signed by actors Indya Moore, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Maxine Peake calling for Alexander to pull out of Eurovision.

Irish Eurovision entrant Bambie Thug
Bambie Thug, who will represent Ireland, was one of the Eurovision artists with whom Olly Alexander issued a joint statement in March - EBU/LILY LYTTON/PA WIRE

In March, Alexander along with Irish hopeful Bambie Thug and Danish entrant Saba as well as other Eurovision artists released a joint statement, backing “an immediate and lasting ceasefire” but refusing to boycott the event.

That same month, Israel unveiled its new entry as Hurricane, performed by singer Eden Golan.

Her original track, October Rain,  had caused controversy as the lyrics were thought to refer to the Hamas attacks of Oct 7.

Eden Golan, the Israeli entrant
Eden Golan, the Israeli entrant, whose song had to be changed after controversy over the original's lyrics - KOKO/REUTERS

Last month, Jean Philip De Tender, the deputy director general of the European Broadcasting Union, who organise Eurovision, said he understands that the song contest takes place “against the backdrop of a terrible war in the Middle East” and this has provoked strong feelings, but criticised artists being “targeted” on social media.

Mr De Tender said: “While we strongly support freedom of speech and the right to express opinions in a democratic society, we firmly oppose any form of online abuse, hate speech, or harassment directed at our artists or any individuals associated with the contest.

“This is unacceptable and totally unfair, given the artists have no role in this decision.”

Alexander to perform on Tuesday

Alexander is to perform his dance-infused track Dizzy on behalf of the UK for Eurovision audiences during the first semi-final on Tuesday.

However, he is already through to the final along with the other members of the “big five”, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, as well as last year’s winner Sweden.

The new documentary, which will air on BBC One on Tuesday, will explore the highs and lows of his journey to the competition including releasing his song, performing at Eurovision pre-parties and the press attention.

Olly Alexander’s Road To Eurovision 24 is available on iPlayer from 6am on Sunday and will air on BBC One on Tuesday at 10:50pm.

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