Michael Rice flies flag for UK at Eurovision grand final

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Michael Rice will perform at Eurovision (Andres Putting)

Michael Rice will fly the flag for the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest when he takes to the stage for the grand final.

The 21-year-old from Hartlepool, Co Durham, is one of 26 acts vying for the top prize during the climax of the week-long contest in Tel Aviv.

He will perform Bigger Than Us in front of a sea of waving flags and glow sticks at the Expo Tel Aviv in the north of the city.

Rice performed for the expert jury panels on Friday night during a non-televised dress rehearsal of the grand final.

The international panels cast their votes in advance of the televised grand final later on Saturday.

Their results will be revealed along with those of the public vote on the night.

Madonna will also make her Eurovision debut after days of speculation over whether she would indeed appear.

The Queen of Pop, 60, has been dogged by calls from the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign to cancel her appearance.

Madonna hits out at Donald Trump
Madonna will perform two songs (Yui Mok/PA)

All Together Now winner Rice will face intense competition from the contest’s front runners, many of whom have already showcased their songs in the two live semi-finals on Tuesday and Thursday.

Sweden’s John Lundvik will perform, singing the gospel-tinged ballad Too Late For Love, as will Russia’s Sergey Lazarev, who will sing Scream.

Both are touted as favourites to win after well-received performances in the second live semi-final.

The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence will also sing. He has been touted as the clear favourite to win since his self-penned song Arcade debuted online in March.

Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke, Iceland’s Hatari and France’s Bilal Hassani are also in with a chance.

Prospects of a British victory are bleak – both Coral and Ladbrokes have given Rice a 150/1 chance of taking the title.

The UK, as one of the “big five” countries contributing the most money to the event, along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, is assured a place in the grand final.

Last year’s winners Israel did also not have to qualify via the semi-finals.

The public vote will make up 50% of the total vote, with the other half determined by a professional jury in each participating country, who cast their votes during performances on Friday.

Residents in all participating countries can vote.

UK fans can vote over the phone, by text or via the Eurovision app, available on iOS, Android and Windows devices.

As per one of Eurovision’s most famous quirks, fans can vote up to 20 times but will be unable to select their own country’s entry.

BBC One’s coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest’s grand final is on Saturday from 8pm and will be led by Graham Norton.

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