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Norway's Alexander Rybak playing the violin during his performance
Norway's Alexander Rybak won the contest by a huge marginImage: EBU

Eye vs tunes

May 18, 2009

Norway was unbeatable at this year's contest, while Germany failed to convince viewers, despite professional support from a US striptease star.


Favorites Norway swept to an easy victory in the 54th Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday, shaking off the other 24 contestants early in the race.

The Norwegian song "Fairy Tale", composed and sung by the violin playing ethnic-Belarussian Alexander Rybak scored a record 387 points. Iceland came in a distant second with 218 points, followed closely by Azerbaijan with 207 points.

The German duo "Alex Swings Oscar Sings" only ranked 20th with their song "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang", despite eye-catching support from the US striptease star Dita von Teese.

Dita too sexy for this song!

Maybe Germany would have been awarded more points if von Teese had been allowed to stick to her original outfit. News photos of the stripper, born Heather Sweet, showing her baring a full bosom during rehearsals led to a complaint by the European Broadcasting Union, resulting in an order for her to dress more appropriately for the family television show.

Dita von Teese and Oscar Loya were on the stage for Germany
Striptease star Dita von Teese didn't peel off as much as she would have liked toImage: AP

As an event, Eurovision is both loved and loathed for its over-the-top, kitschy performances. Moscow organizers managed to arrange a live video connection to astronauts aboard the International Space Station who launched the audience tele-voting.

This year's result was decided by a combination of audience tele-voting and decisions by expert juries in the 42 participating countries, although only 25 nations actually made it to the final round in Moscow.

The Russian organizers reportedly spent over 30 million euros on this year's contest, making it the most expensive competition in Eurovision's history.

Moscow fails to dazzle gay scene

However, the customary glitz and kitsch did not manage to blot out political controversy that started well ahead of the event. Organizers had banned Georgia's entry earlier this year because its song was considered a political jab at the host country Russia. The neighbors had fought a brief war late last August.

Eurovision is known to be immensely popular among the European gay scene. On Saturday, dozens of riot police detained gay rights protesters who had defied the Moscow authorities and tried to stage a demonstration against homophobia which had previously been banned.

The leading Russian gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev had urged contestants to boycott Eurovision in protest against "Russia's state oppression of human rights".

This year's winner Rybak appeared to throw his support behind the gay rights protesters when he said at a news conference: "Why did they (the Moscow police) spend all their energy stopping gays in Moscow when the biggest gay parade was here tonight?"

More than just a laugh?

Since Eurovision's inception in 1956, the show has undergone various changes. Its perception among European viewers has also changed drastically over the years.

Band members of ABBA
ABBA's victory in 1974 marked the Swedish band's international breakthroughImage: AP

The competition rules state that each country is allowed to choose its own act, and that all vocals must be performed live.

Initially each country was also obliged to sing in one of its official languages. However, this rule has been changed several times, allowing participants to resort to English vocals, which have booked the most wins in the history of the competition.

All-time greats ABBA launched their international career by winning the show in 1974 with their smash hit "Waterloo". But critics say the event has meanwhile degenerated into little more than a circus of mediocre songwriting and sometimes even embarrassing acts. Its fiercest opponents say the song contest has become little more than a joke with viewers merely tuning in for a laugh or a cringe.

However, critics cannot deny that the show is watched by an estimated television audience of over 100 million people every year, making it one of the most viewed events on the planet.

Germany's Nicole performing with her guitar at the 1982 contest
Nicole's song for peace gave Germany its sole Eurovision victory in 1982Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Ireland currently leads the overall table with seven wins, while Germany only managed one victory back in 1982 with the song "Ein bisschen Frieden" (A Little Peace), which was performed by 17-year-old singer Nicole.

Norway now boasts three wins and as this year's victor will host the next Eurovision Song Contest in 2010.

Editor: Kateri Jochum

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