Swiss Eurovision winner Nemo returns to hero's welcome

Swiss performer Nemo greeted fans at Zurich Airport after winning the 68th Eurovision Song Contest (ARND WIEGMANN)
Swiss performer Nemo greeted fans at Zurich Airport after winning the 68th Eurovision Song Contest (ARND WIEGMANN)

Nemo was given a hero's welcome on returning to Switzerland after winning the Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday, being greeted by a whirlwind of cheers, hugs and clanging cowbells.

Nemo Mettler flew into Zurich Airport to be welcomed by several hundred fans, waving flags and banners and chanting the 24-year-old's name.

Nemo won Eurovision 2024 in Malmo in Sweden in the early hours of Sunday, with the highly personal song "The Code", which encapsulated the performer's journey towards realising their non-binary gender identity.

Fans gathered at Switzerland's biggest airport had to wait as the incoming Swiss International Air Lines flight from Copenhagen touched down 45 minutes late.

People were lined several deep behind the barriers outside the exit doors, passing the time with renditions of "The Code" before Nemo's arrival.

Cheers erupted as Nemo emerged, wearing a fluffy sweater featuring a rabbit holding a carrot.

The artist gave a double thumbs-up before posing for selfie photos with fans and signing autographs.

One bearded supporter approached the singer saying "Congratulations, honey pie!" while handing over a large colourful spray of flowers.

In November last year, the performer announced on Instagram: "I don't identify as a man or a woman. I'm just Nemo," adding: "My pronouns are they/them."

Some supporters waved banners reading "smash the binary: we exist", and "we exist, we insist, we persist".

Another read "woman, man, human", with boxes down the left and the box next to "human" marked with a cross.

Nemo celebrated with them in a big group hug as they chanted "we broke the code" and "we exist".

- Official reception -

At a press conference afterwards, Nemo announced plans to spend some time relaxing in the garden.

"I'm going to lie down and try to calm down a bit," they said.

"It doesn't feel real at all."

Referring to their song's lyrics -- and breaking the winner's prize -- the performer said: "I broke the code; I broke the trophy."

Nemo said the airport welcome was "extremely beautiful... It showed me how nice it is to be part of a community."

Nemo is well-known in Switzerland, having swept the boards at the 2018 Swiss Music Awards.

Now they are an international star.

The European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision's organisers, said an estimated audience of more than 160 million people watched this year's final, broadcast live in the 37 participating countries and online on YouTube.

Now living in Berlin, Nemo hails from Biel/Bienne in northwestern Switzerland, the largest bilingual city in the country and the heart of the Alpine nation's watchmaking industry.

The city is planning to host an official public reception to pay tribute to their hometown hero, though no date has yet been set.

"It will certainly be a big celebration in the city, with the public, with the fans," Biel Mayor Erich Fehr told Switzerland's Keystone-ATS news agency at the airport.

"It's crazy, an incredible story that Nemo from Biel won this title. The most important music competition in the world. We are really proud and happy," he said.

- Hosting Eurovision 2025 -

As per tradition, Switzerland will host Eurovision next year. Several cities have thrown their hats into the ring.

As for Nemo's hometown, Fehr said: "We have very good infrastructure in Biel, but the Eurovision Song Contest is so big that we certainly can't do it alone. We would have to look to partners, ideally Bern because of its proximity."

Swiss Broadcasting Corporation chief Gilles Marchand hailed Nemo's "tremendous success".

"Even though broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest is a major challenge for all of the TV stations in terms of resources and finances, we are delighted nonetheless that our country will be hosting this beloved event in 2025," he said.

"This will be a major opportunity for the arts and tourism, to show the world what Switzerland can do, and it is now up to us to accept this challenge together."