Russia’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest has said he is enjoying the excitement of Israel but misses his young son back home.
Sergey Lazarev, formerly of Russian boy band Smash!!, is representing his home country with the emotive ballad Scream and is touted as a favourite to win.
Speaking at Eurovision’s star-studded opening ceremony, the 36-year-old said he was enjoying his time in Tel Aviv but was longing to see Nikita, who was born in 2014.
Held at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, the city’s largest concert hall, this year’s 41 acts walked an orange carpet in front of fans and press.
Asked whether he missed home, Lazarev said: “Israel is wonderful. But I do. Yes, I miss home but I miss my son. He is still young.”
Pointing to a tattoo of the letter N on his neck, he added: “I got this for him. His name is Nikita.”
Russia made its Eurovision debut in 1994 but did not win until Dima Bilan lifted the trophy in Belgrade in 2008 with the song Believe.
In recent years Russia has consistently scored well and Lazarev is vaunted as favourite to win second only to the Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence.
Lazarev said he was looking forward to getting in front a live audience during the semi-finals.
He said: “I’m ready. I’m completely ready for the performance. I’m looking forward to the first performance in front of the crowd. I want to hear the feedback.
“I know that they support me. I feel it. I respect it. So thank you very much.”
The event saw ballerinas perform to a playlist of Eurovision songs from previous decades including Rise Like A Phoenix by Austria’s 2014 victor Conchita Wurst.
Switzerland’s Luca Hanni, a singer-songwriter and model, said he was happy just to be competing.
He said: “We can celebrate now it is beginning. It’s my second time in Israel.”
Asked if he thought he would come first, he said only: “Who will win? Let’s see, let’s see. I will give my best.”
Last year’s winner, Israeli vocalist Netta, also made an appearance, singing her new song Nana Banana.
Arriving on the carpet, she said: “It’s talking about expectation. It’s talking about being afraid about what you have in your heart.
“You have to be comfortable in the world. Not just in your own home. You don’t have to be afraid to do what you want to do. That’s it.”
About 10 protesters wearing Free Palestine t-shirts staged a “die-in”, where they lay on the ground pretending to be dead, outside one entrance but were quickly dispersed by police.