Competitors Ready for Eurovision

KIEV, Ukraine -- Twenty-four nations are preparing to do battle in the 50th Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev on Saturday.

Greek singer Helena was an early favourite to win, followed by Norwegian rock band Wig Wam. The UK is represented by 24-year-old Javine.

Multi-Eurovision winners Ireland had a shock exit from the contest on Thursday when singers Donna and Joe failed to make it through the semi-final.

Greek singer Helena is an early favourite

The final will be broadcast on Saturday on BBC One and Radio 2 from 2000 BST.

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The annual song contest is one of Europe's major TV events, with more than 150 million people expected to watch the final.

The winner is determined by telephone voting in 39 countries.

This year's event is hosted in the Ukraine after it won the 2004 contest with a leather-clad performance of Wild Dances by singer Ruslana.

It has rapidly staged the event at capital Kiev's Sports Palace following last year's Orange Revolution, in which mass protests led to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko taking office.

Ukraine was not expected to notch up a second consecutive victory on Saturday, however, with bookmakers regarding its entrant Greenjolly as unlikely winner.

One of Greenjolly's rap songs was the unofficial anthem of last year's protests.

Ireland was one of 15 entrants to be ejected by public vote during the semi-final on Thursday.

Hungary, Romania and Israel were among 10 semi-finalists to make it through, joining acts from 14 other countries who automatically won slots.

UK representative Javine will be the second entrant to perform on Saturday, with each song limited to three-and-a-half minutes.

Her full name is Javine Hylton and she began her pop career in 2003 after narrowly losing out on a place in reality TV band Girls Aloud in 2002.

"I can't see myself coming last," she has said. "I know I'm going to be in the top 10."

The UK last won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997 with Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves.

Source: BBC News