The event will gather contestants from 26 states

The Grand Final of the international Eurovision song contest began in Ukraine’s capital Kiev on Saturday evening.

The event will gather contestants from 26 states, including 20 qualifiers from the two semifinals, held in Kiev on May 9 and 11. The host nation Ukraine, as well as representatives from the “Big Five” group of the contest’s major economic contributors (UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy), were rewarded with automatic spots in the final.

The first semifinal was successfully cleared by contestants from Moldova, Azerbaijan, Greece, Sweden, Portugal, Poland, Armenia, Australia, Cyprus and Belgium. Qualifiers from the second semifinal are Bulgaria, Belarus, Croatia, Hungary, Denmark, Israel, Romania, Norway, The Netherlands and Austria.

The show, currently under way at the Kiev International Exhibition Center, will also feature Ukraine’s previous Eurovision entries, including singer Ruslana, who won the contest in 2004, and Andrei Danilko (a.k.a Verka Serdyuchka), the runner-up of Eurovision 2007.

Prices for the Grand Final tickets ranged between 70 and 555 euro. Approximately two weeks before the show, the official seller announced that all tickets have been sold out. However, it was still possible to buy online tickets on’s website hours before the Grand Final.

The winner will be awarded with the main trophy, a crystal microphone-shaped figurine. His home nation will host the next year’s competition.

According to the latest odds, the frontrunner is Salvador Sobral from Portugal, who seized the top spot from the previous leader, Italy’s Francesco Gabbani, as the contest went along. Among other frontrunners are Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov, Belgium’s Blanche and UK’s Lucie Jones.

Wheelchair-bound vocalist Yulia Samoilova was set to be Russia’s participant for the Eurovision Song Contest this year.

On March 22, the Ukrainian Security Council (SBU) issued a three-year travel ban against Samoilova, citing her performance at a festival dubbed “A World of Sports and Kindness” held in Crimea on June 27, 2015. Ukraine’s authorities say that by performing in Crimea, Samoilova violated the Ukrainian government’s regulation dated June 4, 2015, which stipulates that foreign citizens should receive a special permission in order to enter Crimea.

In response to the move, Russian broadcaster Channel One has decided to cancel the broadcast of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest and turned down the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)’s proposal to select another contestant or to allow Samoilova to perform via a video linkup.

In 2016, the EBU announced the change in the contest’s voting system in a bid to create a dramatic finish. In previous years each country’s jury and public votes were combined and announced in one go. Since last year, the votes are split with each country’s jury vote cast first, and votes from viewers in all countries combined and announced at the end. Russia is not taking part in this year’s vote.