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Posted by portugalpress on May 17, 2018

Portugal may have come bottom when it came to its national entry, but last week’s Eurovision Song Contest saw the country winning in every other way: hotels, guest houses, Airbnb’s, restaurants, shops, all had cash registers pinging so loudly it’s a wonder any of the songs were even heard.

Lisbon was transformed into what locals described as ‘a madhouse’, with traffic snarling in every corner and parking gone mad. But the bottom-line is that the country will have made “hundreds of millions of euros”.

Interviewed before last Saturday’s final, José Esteves from hoteliers association AHRESP said: “You can’t put a limit on what this promotion for Portugal means. It will certainly be difficult to monitor in the short term. We’re showing the country as welcoming, modern, knowing how to do things. The return on this is priceless...”

Major points, too, were scored in the way security services dealt with the many thousands of fans, ensuring that none of the crackpot threats received by national teams ever got any kind of chance to develop.

Only one ‘known saboteur’ made it to the stage – during the UK’s entry – and he was so quickly bundled off that singer SuRie didn’t even think it worth it requesting a repeat performance.

As it was, she received massive praise for keeping her cool and soldiering on to rake in a dismal 48 points.

Last year’s winner Salvador Sobral (remember he polled an unprecedented 758 points) dazzled crowds with yet another rendition of his haunting song ‘Amar pelos Dois’ – this time with Brazilian musical legend Caetano Veloso – and, all in all, organisers RTP had a winner on their hands.Of course, there were the controversies – perhaps the ‘worst’ being Salvador’s slating of the winning song “Toy”, belted out by Israel’s Netta Barzilai, as a “horrible song”.

Sobral’s antipathy towards what he dubs “fast food music without content” has been no secret since his win last year. But his comments were interpreted as “talking down the competition”.

And his criticism saw former Croatian competitor Jacques Houdek resort to a bitter Twitter tirade.

Quoted in full by the UK’s Metro, Houdek said: “SHAME ON YOU, Salvador Sobral!!! Is this how a winner of the Eurovision Song Contest is supposed to speak out?

“You tried so hard to portray yourself as a humble man, as a true artist, and you may have tricked the entire Europe, but you did not fool me!

“Let me tell you something Salvador Sobral – last year, when you missed out on ALL of the song contest rehearsals, and your sister did them for you – the European Broadcasting Union should have disqualified you! It was unprofessional and extremely unfair to all of us who were there, doing all the hard work! It was also very sad and unfortunate that you were sick, I have to say, but if you are having health issues – YOU DON‘T TAKE ON such a huge project like Eurosong!

“Even in your own victory speech you were unpleasant to all of us, your fellow Eurosong contestants – but NOW, you are being far more rude by picking on Israel‘s representative Netta Barzilai and her song, it is just outrageous! So patronising and completely inappropriate.”

It was not the first time Sobral’s comments caused a stir – and may well not be the last – but karma got him back almost instantly: as 2017’s victor he was duty-bound to present Netta with her much-coveted trophy.

It wasn’t just Israelis and Croats who managed to get upset though. Brits, too, found a reason to fume about Portugal’s attitude towards Eurovision – at least, that’s what we were told by the UK’s Daily Express.

The reason was what the paper cited as an “offensive” sketch seen as “mocking” naturalist David Attenborough “on his 92nd birthday”.

For the Portuguese, the celebration skit designed to give a bit of history on Portugal was just another tongue-in-cheek bit of nonsense from legendary comedian Herman José.

While Brits thought it was “shocking”, even “sacrilege” to impersonate a national treasure, Portuguese loved it and complained that their ‘closest allies’ must have lost their sense of humour as a result of Brexit.

Did Herman José realise he was performing the skit on much-loved Attenborough’s 92nd birthday? Very possibly not. Did he care about the brouhaha his performance unleashed? The veteran of slapstick retorted over Facebook: “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about…”

To be fair, there are always controversies and ‘troughs’ in events like this, and they are quickly forgotten once the razzmatazz packs itself up for another year.

What won’t be forgotten, here at least, is the fact that yet again this tiny country on the edge of Europe has made millions from visitors who came, had fun and very probably plan on coming back.

By NATASHA DONN natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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