Swedish singer Loreen stormed to victory with 372 points in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, with Russia and Serbia occupying second and third place. The German Roman Lob reached a respectable eighth.
The bookmakers have known it for weeks, while the Swedish delegation had known it all along: 28-year-old Loreen from Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan with aplomb.
Her total had already become unassailable after only two-thirds of the points had been handed out. After all 42 participating countries had presented their tallies, Loreen boasted the enormous score of 372 for her techno-pop number "Euphoria."
Another favorite ended at a distant second place – the elderly Russian ladies Buranovski Babushki, with their song "Party for everybody" scored 259 points, while Serbian Zeljko Joksimovic landed third with 214 points for his ballad "Nije ljubav stvar." Germany's Roman Lob, who said before the competition that his aim was to make the top ten, finished eighth, scoring 110 points for his song "Standing Still."
The other highly favored countries Spain and Italy finished in 9th and 10th. One of the surprises of the night was the 5th place for Albanian song "Suus," sung by Kosovan-born Rona Nishliu, which many had considered too complex and unconforming, despite her singing prowess.
Dancing for Europe
The wide musical spectrum at this year's contest reflected diverse trends in contemporary pop. Apart from various shades of dance-pop, there were plenty of ballads with large arrangements, folk-influenced tunes like the Moldovan entry, and local-flavored pop like the Turkish song. There was also retro-soul from Italy, and bagpipes accompanying Spanish lyrics from Romania.
Some 20,000 people saw the three-hour show inside the futuristic Crystal Hall in Baku, built especially for the occasion, while another 120 million are reported to have watched the competition on TV.
Azerbaijani TV channel Ictimai offered this huge audience a show liberally peppered with images of the host country, as well as diverse traditional live acts, including a drum ensemble and fire artists.
The show was presented by Eldar, one of half of the duo El and Nikki, who won the competition for Azerbaijan last year with "Running Scared," as well as two TV presenters Nargiz und Leyla. The latter happens to be the daughter of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and married to pop singer Emin, who performed in one of the intervals.
The three ESC shows in Baku took place under extreme security precautions and with a massive police contingent. During the week there were several arrests of people demonstrating against the exploitation of the ESC by the authoritarian President Aliyev. Before the contest there had been calls for a boycott of the event due to the lack of respect for human rights in Azerbaijan, where there are no free elections.
There was no hint of the unrest during the shows themselves. No artist took the stage to make a political statement. Only Anke Engelke, moderator of the ESC 2011 in Düsseldorf and calling in this year to announce Germany's points, said, "We can't vote for our own country - but it's good being able to vote at all, to have a choice. Wishing you luck, Azerbaijan, on your journey. Europe is watching you."
Almost 43 countries in the competition
26 countries entered the ESC finale in Baku. Of the 42 participating nations, 20 quailifed in two semifinals on Tuesday and Thursday evening. The "Big Five," the largest funders in the European Broadcasting Union - Italy, Spain, Germany, Great Britain and France - were scheduled for the finale along with the 2011 winner, Azerbaijan.
Armenia, the 43rd country, boycotted the competition after the Azerbaijani president had declared Armenians all over the world enemies of the state.
After Sweden's victory, the country will host next year's Eurovision Song Contest - altogether, for the fifth time. At the press conference, the radiant victor said that all the candidates had been excellent and that her success merely reflected current tastes. "My dance is a symbol of freedom," she added, "and I'm happy that my song was so successful even though it's not very mainstream."
Autor: Matthias Klaus / bk
Editor: Rick Fulker