The Latest: Eurovision final expected to get big TV audience

The Latest: Eurovision final expected to get big TV audience
Eleni Foureira from Cyprus performs the song 'Fuego' in Lisbon, Portugal, Tuesday, May 8, 2018 during the first semi-final for the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals take place in Lisbon on Tuesday, May 8 and Thursday, May 10 with the the grand final taking place on Saturday May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The Latest on the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

Lights, music, action! Europe’s annual music extravaganza is about to begin, with many people expecting a vintage year.

The Grand Final of the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest will crown one of 26 entries with dreams of following in the footsteps of past winners such as Swedish pop group ABBA and Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias.

The show is taking place at Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday night, starting at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT.) Some 200 million people around the world are expected to be watching.

The event started out as a competition between European countries, but its huge popularity has led to the inclusion of Israel and Australia as contestants.

The country which furnishes the winner organizes the following year’s competition. Portugal won last year with Salvador Sobral’s subdued ballad “Amar pelos Dois.”

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11:15 p.m.

The kitsch is conspicuously absent this year and the usual extravagant stage effects are nowhere to be seen. Could the Eurovision Song Contest finally be focusing on the music?

The annual Euro-pop fest has long been the glittery home of outlandish costumes, high-voltage stage effects, forgettable tunes and kitschy acts like last year’s dancing gorilla.

But Portugal — which hosting this year’s event because its entry, Salvador Sobral, won with a restrained solo ballad last year in Ukraine — is putting on a show with stylish, elegant performances by a strong field of competitors. And it’s doing that with a .8 million budget that officials say is the most restrained since 2008.

That means the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest is heading to what many predict will be an exceptional year.