The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest has kicked off in Liverpool with a flag parade featuring the countries vying for its coveted glass microphone trophy.
The Princess of Wales made a surprise appearance playing the piano in a pre-recorded opening video featuring last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra.
They were also joined by 2022 runner-up Sam Ryder playing guitar on the top of the Liver Building with Andrew Lloyd Webber on piano.
In the auditorium, a troupe of drummers joined Kalush Orchestra on stage to open the grand final as pyrotechnics lit up the arena.
— BBC Eurovision (@bbceurovision) May 13, 2023
The Chemical Brothers track Hey Boy Hey Girl was played as the countries competing in the final began to walk onto the stage with their national flags.
Former Ukrainian contestants Go_A, Tina Karol and Jamala, who won for Ukraine in 2016, performed in between the contestants appearing.
The UK’s Mae Muller walked out onto the stage stage before the crowd were treated to a performance from Verka Serduchka, who entered the contest for Ukraine in 2007.
Graham Norton welcomed viewers to the final alongside alongside co-hosts Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina.
Waddingham said the UK was “so very proud” to be “taking the reins” and hosting on behalf of Ukraine, while Sanina thanked the British public.
Norton added: “United we are, well out here. But backstage the competition is fierce.”
Dixon wore a one-shouldered blue sparkly dress, while Sanina wore a full-length yellow dress with a structured neckline, and Waddingham styled an off-the-shoulder purple metallic dress.
Twenty-six acts will perform at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool to an expected global audience of 160 million viewers, according to the BBC.
The city is hosting on behalf of war-torn Ukraine, who won last year’s contest but are unable to host due to the Russian invasion.
Austria’s Teya and Salena were first on stage with quirky dance-pop tune Who The Hell Is Edgar? – about being possessed by the ghost of 19th century Gothic author Edgar Allan Poe.
Muller will close the show with I Wrote A Song – a slot generally considered a disadvantage.
But they all face tough competition from previous winner Loreen, representing Sweden, and Kaarija, representing Finland, both favourites to win.