Eurovision winner Nemo gets hero's welcome in Swiss hometown

Nemo took to the stage in a giant pink fur hat (STEFAN WERMUTH)
Nemo took to the stage in a giant pink fur hat (STEFAN WERMUTH)

Eurovision winner Nemo received a hero's welcome on Monday as they took to the stage to give their Swiss hometown of Biel a celebratory rendition of the highly personal song "The Code".

The 68th Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden's Malmo was watched by 163 million viewers, and winning the glitzy annual television extravaganza rocketed Nemo to international stardom.

Five weeks on the 24-year-old was back in Biel for a special ceremony laid on by the town -- which now hopes to host next year's Eurovision.

Around 2,000 locals were in Biel's main square -- which Nemo used to walk through on the way to school -- to see the artist receive a trophy and a giant bouquet of flowers, and perform "The Code".

The Eurovision-winning song encapsulates Nemo's journey towards realising their non-binary gender identity, and combines rap, drum and bass and opera. Nemo dedicated their victory to the "entire LGBTQIA+ community".

To screams and a sea of camera phones, Nemo appeared on stage in a oversized pink fluffy hat and blew kisses to the crowd, which chanted their name.

"Thank you, everyone. I want to say it's a great honour to be here, and I love you, Biel," the singer said.

- 'The right message' -

The artist then signed autographs and posed for pictures with the crowd, many of whom voiced their pride in the singer's journey to the top.

"He spreads out love and I think this is such a good thing. I want to support this," said Gerlinka Neumayer.

"He is at the right time at the right place, with the right message. And he opens up many doors," said Suzanne Castleberg.

Marie Schueppen also said Nemo "gives a positive message, and this is important for me".

Now living in Berlin, Nemo sang "The Code" at the Zurich Pride Festival on Friday, in a first performance since winning Eurovision.

"The last few weeks have been completely crazy, everything has happened very quickly," the singer told journalists before going on stage Monday.

Known by both its German and French names, Biel/Bienne in northwest Switzerland is the largest bilingual city in the country and the heart of the Alpine nation's watchmaking industry.

"The spirit of tonight is Biel meets Nemo; Nemo meets Biel," the town's mayor Erich Fehr told AFP.

"Nemo's victory is very important for our city because everybody in the whole of Europe is talking about Biel.

"We are very, very proud."

- Battle for Eurovision 2025 -

Nemo is Switzerland's third Eurovision winner after victories in 1956 and 1988. As per tradition, the Swiss will now host next year's song contest.

Biel, in the canton of Bern, is looking at potentially co-hosting the event with the nation's capital, though bigger cities like Zurich or Geneva might get chosen.

"We don't have large enough infrastructure and we don't have hotel capacities," admitted Fehr.

"But Bern and Biel together, that will work -- and that much's more interesting than Geneva, which is only French, or Zurich, that's only German," he said, referring to the languages spoken.

"But Biel and Bern, German and French: that's Switzerland."

Dominique Buhler, president of the Bern canton's parliament, said the region had a compelling case to offer the multi-lingual TV spectacular.

She told AFP that Nemo's victory was "incredible and it shows that anything is possible".

"You just have to follow your dreams, dream big... it's definitely inspiring for all of us."

Nemo last week announced a 24-date, 17-country European concert tour entitled "Break The Code", for March and April next year.

The tour includes shows in London, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and Vienna -- a far cry from the Burgplatz square in Biel.