Sweden sweeps Azerbaijan’s controversial Eurovision

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Sweden sweeps Azerbaijan’s controversial Eurovision
by Anna Malpas | May 27, 2012

Swedish star Loreen wowed voters with a dance number called "Euphoria" featuring an upbeat chorus
Swedish star Loreen wowed voters with a dance number called “Euphoria” featuring an upbeat chorusSwedish star Loreen on Sunday celebrated victory over rivals including Russian pensioners in a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest that host Azerbaijan hoped would banish qualms over its rights record.

Loreen, 28, the daughter of Berber immigrants from Morocco, wowed voters with a catchy dance number called “Euphoria” featuring an exultant chorus accompanied by a high-kicking dance duet and a storm of artificial snow.

The slick four-hour show late Saturday was the biggest event ever hosted by energy-rich Azerbaijan as it seeks to present a glitzy image despite concerns over rights violations under the autocratic rule of the Aliyev dynasty.

Loreen’s victory was the fifth by Sweden in the contest 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 kitschy 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.

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

Second place on Saturday went to Russia’s heartwarming Buranovskiye Babushki, 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.

Russian television showed hundreds crowding into a hall to watch the contest in their native village of Buranovo, which now sells souvenir dolls of the Babushki and where a church is being built thanks to their success.

“My mother has been worried out in Baku about how the potatoes are growing at home, if the cow is getting on,” said Valentina, the daughter of group member Natalya Pugachova.

Third was Serbian Eurovision veteran Zelijko Joksimovic who had already competed in three previous contests, once as a singer and twice as a composer.

The show included the usual range 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”.

Sweden’s victory with 372 points with an uplifting song tailor made for the contest was never in doubt, although voting was marked by the usual backslapping patterns with the Greeks voting for the Cypriots and vice versa.

The final’s 26 acts lit up the spectacular Crystal Hall built to host the contest in barely half a year on the Caspian Sea, with an audience of some 20,000 inside the venue and 100 million television viewers.

The host entry Sabina Babayeva was not all that far from securing a repeat of Azerbaijan’s 2011 success that earned the nation the right to host the contest with her “When the Music Dies” coming in fourth.

Loreen ran into controversy during the contest by meeting local rights activists who briefed her on the lack of democratic freedoms in the tightly controlled ex-Soviet state.

However at the post-contest news conference she sidestepped a question about how she would support the people of Azerbaijan further, saying simply that: “I will support the Azerbaijan people from my heart.”

In Baku the festive atmosphere had been clouded by the detentions of dozens of opposition activists who attempted to hold several peaceful demonstrations calling for democratic freedoms in the tightly-controlled state.

Azerbaijan is run by strongman President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his late father Heidar Aliyev in 2003.

His wife Mehriban Aliyeva headed the organising committee of Eurovision 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 event was also far beyond the reach of ordinary Azerbaijanis, with tickets for the final starting at 160 manat ($204), half the monthly income of the average Azeri, according to World Bank statistics.

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

Armenia had pulled out of the contest saying it feared hostile treatment and Azerbaijan barred those who had visited Nagorny Karabakh from travelling to the contest.

AFP

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Posted on May 27, 2012, in Morocco News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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