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Europe

Politics and Kitsch Mix at Eurovision

As Ukraine prepares to host this year's Eurovision Song Contest, it's keen to present a new face to the world following last year's "Orange Revolution." But can it help revive Kiev's waning revolutionary spirit?

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Ukraine prepares for an injection of national pride on Saturday

Kiev is scrubbed and shining, ready to welcome organizers, performers and fans -- as well as an estimated 120 million television viewers -- for the annual festival of kitsch that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

Unterstützer der Opposoition ion der Ukraine freuen sich ausgelassen über die Entscheiung die Präsidentschaftswahlen in einer Stichwahl zu wiederholen

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko carry a huge sheaf of orange balloons, during mass rally in downtown, Kiev, Ukraine, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004.

The venue, the former Soviet Palace of Sports, has been hurriedly renovated, and the contest's slogan -- "Awakening" -- can be seen on banners and posters all over the city. It's symbolic of a new era that began in Ukraine in the wake of the "Orange Revolution" protests last year that ousted former pro-Russian prime minister and presidential candidate, Viktor Yanukovych. Pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was sworn into office, and has since then made forging closer ties with the European Union his main policy objective.

Heard everywhere during the days of protest last winter was the song "Together We Are Many" by GreenJolly, who've been selected to represent Ukraine at Eurovision. However, they'll be belting out a modified version on Saturday night.

Originally, GreenJolly's song contained the lyrics: "No to falsifications, no to lies. Yushchenko -- yes! Yushchenko -- yes!" The band submitted new lyrics in March after organizers deemed the original version to be "too political."

Disenchantment setting in

Viktor Juschtschenko in Straßburg

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko

The toned-down version is in keeping, it seems, with the waning revolutionary spirit in Ukraine. After the initial euphoria, many citizens have become disenchanted with Yushchenko's government, which has been in power for just over 100 days. Protesters have again been gathering in front of the Kiev parliament -- but this time, they're calling for swifter change.

One of the protestors' biggest concerns is the current fuel crisis that has led to long lines at the gas stations around the country. The crisis is largely due to the government’s failure to set new crude oil contracts with Russia, its main source of oil.

Late Thursday, however, the Ukrainian government said it had reached an agreement with Russian oil companies to end the crisis.

Some young Ukrainians are hopeful that the Eurovision Song Contest will revive the unifying force spread by the Orange Revolution, if only for one night. The youth organization Pora, which rallied supporters for last year's protests, has erected 3,000 tents along the banks of the Dnieper River for Eurovision guests unwilling to pay the inflated room rates at Kiev's hotels.

Grand Prix Eurovision 2004 Ukraine Gewinner

Ukraine's entry for the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest, Ruslana Lyzichko, sings "Wild Dances."

"The main idea behind this camp is to recall the revolutionary spirit," organizer Olena Gantsyak-Kaskiv told Reuters.

Ukraine won last year's Eurovision Song Contest after entering for only the second time. The winning number, "Wild Dances" by Ruslana, mixed Ukrainian ethnic rhythms with a raunchy performance by leather-clad dancers.

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