Sweden euphoric after fifth Eurovision win

Song contest final puts spotlight on Azerbaijan
Swedes were euphoric on Sunday after singer Loreen clinched the country`s fifth Eurovision crown, beating rivals including a group of Russian grannies in the glitzy annual song contest.

Favourite Loreen wowed voters with her catchy techno-pop number ``Euphoria``, crushing the competition as she notched up the maximum 12 points from judge after judge.

Russia`s singing grannies had to content themselves with second place but won the hearts of millions, including President Vladimir Putin who on Sunday sent his congratulations and promised to pay a visit to their village soon.

Putin is ``delighted by the talent and gusto shown by the Babushki in the contest`` in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, his press service said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Serbia`s Zeljko Joksimovic with the song ``Nije Ljubav Stvar`` settled for third place.

Azerbaijan, represented by Sabina Babayeva with the song ``When The Music Dies``, took the fourth spot with 150 points. Sabina received the top 12 points from Turkey, Ukraine, Malta and Lithuania. Voters in Russia, Moldova, Bulgaria and Georgia granted Azerbaijan 10 points.

Loreen`s victory was the fifth for Sweden and followed in the footsteps of its most famous band Abba who won the contest in 1974 with ``Waterloo`` -- for many the song that defined the contest for all time.

``It`s just a question of taste. This year it happened to me,`` was how Loreen, whose real name is Lorine Zineb Noka Talhaoui, modestly explained her victory with 372 points.

Pictures of the 28-year-old daughter of Berber immigrants from Morocco draped in her country`s yellow and blue flag were splashed across newspapers in Scandanavia on Sunday after Swedes celebrated through the night.

``Loreen is a Swedish hero,`` cheered one jubilant fan Steffan Janemyr as Swedes thronged into Stockholm`s central Sergel square. ``It`s the best song ever to have won Eurovision.``

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted: ``Yes, Loreen certainly lived up to high expectations.``

The Russian grannies, a choir of elderly village women aged up to 76 who performed a disco song ``Party for Everybody`` in English and their local Finno-Ugric language, were delighted to be runners-up.

``There are tears of joy. The Babushki are so happy with their success,`` band administrator Maria Tolstukhina told Interfax, adding that their earnings would be spent on building a new church in their native village of Buranovo.

The show included the usual mix of the weird and exotic including a Norwegian rapper of Iranian origin who came last, half-naked French gymnasts and Irish duo Jedward who ended the routine by getting drenched by a fountain.

There was disappointment for Britain after veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck -- brought in to revive its notoriously bad Eurovision fortunes -- scored just 12 points and came second last with his ballad ``Love Will Set You Free``.

Voting was marked by the usual backslapping geo-political patterns with the Greeks voting for the Cypriots and vice versa.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev`s wife Mehriban Aliyeva headed the Eurovision organising committee and his son-in-law, Emin Agalarov, a Moscow-based businessman with a budding pop career, sang in a black leather jacket in a musical interlude after the voting.

The final`s 26 acts lit up the Crystal Hall built on the Caspian Sea in barely six months, with an audience of some 20,000 inside the venue and 120 million television viewers.

As pop performers competed at Baku`s Crystal Hall, music fans and curious passers-by took part in the festivities on the streets of the Azerbaijani capital.

At the post-contest news conference Loreen said: ``I will support the Azerbaijan people from my heart.``

Loreen said she loved the people of Azerbaijan, and the food in the country is great as well.

``People here are friendly,`` she noted. ``I hope my song will stay in people`s hearts for a long time``.

The winning recipe is ``to be yourself and be true to yourself``, Loreen said.

Loreen said she was not very happy with being in public spotlight.

``I don`t enjoy people paying attention to me,`` she said. ``I am a very shy person, and such attention is not usual for me.``

Loreen said her dance embraces freedom, without any rules, and being able to move the way you want.

Hosts Azerbaijan put on a four-hour extravaganza that it hoped would bolster its image.

Baku has embraced Eurovision in a big way, France Press reported after the final of the song contest.

``The Eurovision logo is on buses and a shiny new fleet of London-style cabs. It is emblazoned on open-air video screens, flags and in the seaside park,`` AFP said.

According to the agency, the Azerbaijani capital Baku certainly has plenty of glitter.

``In case anyone was in doubt about Baku`s love of glitz, they only had to look back across the bay where three skyscrapers called the Flame Towers ran a non-stop light display of Eurovision symbols and flags across their facades.``

Among the glittering buildings of the city, AFP mentioned the Crystal Hall built in the shape of a crystal topped with swirling lasers and dripping in lights that changed colour to match each competing nation`s flag.

Moreover, a neon-lit clocktower in the shape of one of the oil derricks located in the city promenade attracted attention of the article`s author.

With political sensitivities never far from this Eurovision, promotional videos shown included landscapes from Nagorno Karabakh, which Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized from Azerbaijan in a 1990s war.

Armenia had pulled out of the contest saying it feared hostile treatment.

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev believes Eurovision enabled Azerbaijan to showcase its potential.

``Azerbaijan as any country in the world tries to provide detailed information about itself to the international community, and the Eurovision Song Contest was a good opportunity for Azerbaijan in this sense,`` Abdullayev told Trend news agency.

He said most of the guests visited Azerbaijan for the first time, have witnessed the country`s rapid development and got acquainted with its abundant culture and history. In addition, Azerbaijan`s visitors felt the hospitality of Azerbaijani people, he said.

According to Abdullayev, holding the contest in Azerbaijan provided a good opportunity to attract tourists to the country in the future.