Destiny Chukunyere sailed through the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest on Tuesday after a confident performance of her song Je Me Casse.

The 18-year-old was the last to take the stage and Malta’s name was the fifth  of the 10 qualifiers to be announced, although that did not reflect the points each country was awarded. 

16 countries took part in the semi-final. Half the votes were allocated by juries from the participating countries on Monday and they were combined with the remaining 50% cast by viewers’ televoting on Tuesday.

The second semi-final will be held on Thursday, with the final night on Saturday.

A veteran singer despite her young age, Destiny gave a commanding performance, with both the song and its interpretation clearly superior to most of the earlier performances. The crowd at Rotterdam’s Ahoy arena theatre – limited by virus concerns - burst into applause as Destiny demonstrated her powerful voice with ease. 

Earlier in the day Destiny had told Times of Malta that while music should not be about winning, she would give it ‘her all’.

“I’ve rehearsed and I’m definitely ready," she said.

A long-awaited appointment for Destiny

It has been a long wait for her. Destiny was actually due to represent Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest last year after winning The X Factor contest. But the 2020 edition was cancelled owing to COVID-19 concerns. The local authorities decided she should not miss her chance, and nominated her for this year’s event.

This was not Destiny’s first appearance on the Eurovision stage. In the last show, in 2019, she was a backing singer for Michaela Pace in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Tel Aviv.

Destiny won the 2015 Junior Eurovision Song Contest with a record points haul and was a semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent in 2017 having previously also taken part in and SanRemo Junior in Italy, among other contests.

Her Eurovision song, Je Me Casse deals with the empowerment of women and society’s pressures on women.

Bookmakers have predicted she will place first in the semi-final and will be among the top three on the final night, with the Italian and French entries.

Another 10 countries will take part in Thursday’s semi-final. The two groups of qualifying countries will be joined on  the final night by the ‘big five’ festival sponsors  - UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and France – and the last winner and now host country The Netherlands.

Organisational challenge

Hosting the festival has been a challenge for The Netherlands and especially the port city of Rotterdam.

A huge artwork outside the Ahoy Arena is emblazoned with the words "Open Up", the theme for this year's contest.  

The theme was actually chosen before COVID-19 swept the globe and forced the cancellation of the 2020 edition, but it has proved uncannily apt.

Fans take a picture outside the Ahoy Arena.Fans take a picture outside the Ahoy Arena.

Rotterdam has glitzed up for the song contest, with names of former winners including Abba's "Waterloo" festooned across the city's harp-like Erasmus bridge.

But the country, which has averaged 5,000 COVID-19 cases a day over the past week, and where vaccination has been sluggish, is taking no chances.

Eurovision contestants are confined to a bio-secure "bubble” and the crowd in the  Ahoy Arena including Saturday's final has been limited to just 3,500 fans - 20% of the venue's capacity. Everyone on site must be regularly tested.

Travel restrictions have kept all but a few of the normally tens of thousands of fans from venturing to the Netherlands.

The usually vibrant Eurovision village where fans and contestants can meet has also been turned into an online-only event.

But the city has put its best foot forward in the form of attractions like a huge replica of the iconic microphone-shaped trophy for fans to pose with. 

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