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Turkey wins Eurovision Song Contest

Ruth Elkins
May 25, 2003

Turkey took top honors at this year’s Eurovision song contest for the first time, beating out a folk-inspired act from Belgium and the controversial Russian girl group Tatu.

Turkey's Setab Erener blows a kiss to her fans after the winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Riga, Latvia.Image: AP

Sertab Erener –- one of Turkey’s most popular female vocalists –- won the competition late Saturday night by combining her song “Everyway that I Can” with a well choreography stage show inspired by Turkish belly dancing.

Held this year in the small Baltic state Latvia, the Eurovision contest, as always, melded politics and partisan voting with glitzy, sometimes downright cheesy, pop music. Watched by an estimated 160 million viewers around the world, the Latvians put on an impressive show that came down to exciting head-to-head final vote.

It was a surprise win for the Turks. Belgium’s Urban Trad led for much of the voting, but many in the Latvian capital Riga had been betting on Russia’s pseudo-lesbian duo Tatu. The group had been so hyped to win that their every move was followed in the run up to Saturday night.

Seventeen year-old Elena Katina and 18 year-old Julia Volkova sulked their way through press conferences, told journalists they were planning to spend their time off having “sex in a very small bed” and caused havoc at rehearsals.

Eurovision organizers feared the two would do something on Saturday that would not be deemed good clean family fun. Rumors abounded that Tatu might strip on stage. Or snog. Or worse. Happily for European broadcasters, they chose to play it straight and the 48th annual song contest passed off without a hitch.

The politics of pop

As in every year, voting remained partisan as Scandinavian countries supported each other, Slavic nations rallied to their neighbors and as large expatriate communities called in to support the act from their homeland.

In a sign of geopolitical reconciliation, viewers from both Cyprus and Greece gave Turkey’s Erener high point totals. “For peace on Cyprus,” said the Cypriot moderator as he gave Turkey ten points. The Turkish north of Cyprus has been separated from the Greek south ever since Turkey invaded to keep the island from joining Greece.

The British act Jemini suffered utter humiliation coming dead last without receiving a single point from the other 25 countries participating. BBC commentator Terry Wogan chalked up the result to a “post Iraq backlash.”

Many of the British fans in Riga agreed with the theory that Continental Europe had used Eurovision to pay Britain back for going to war against Iraq with the United States.

“I don’t think we’re particularly liked in Europe at the moment,” one British fan, Lee Smith said.

Lou, die deutsche Kandidatin für den Grand Prix Eurovision
LouImage: AP

Germany’s entry Lou came in a mediocre twelfth place with her motivational speaker motto “Let’s get Happy”. “I’m disappointed. I wish I could have brought the thing to Germany,” Lou told ARD television.

Latvia the real winner

Despite coming in second to last in the competition, many in Latvia feel the small Baltic nation was the evenings real winner.

After victory in last year’s contest in neighboring Estonia, Riga got the chance to put on the annual competition. Although Latvia had to shell out millions of dollars to host Eurovision this year, most believe the long-term benefits of having had a global audience will more than offset the investment.

Latvia, which has spent most of its history under Swedish, German or Soviet rule and has been independent for only just over a decade, was overjoyed to have the opportunity to market itself.

“It’s wonderful for our tourism – (Eurovision) means that people know where Latvia is now,” said Anna Muhka from Latvian’s largest daily newspaper, Diena.

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