Greece Wins Eurovision Song Contest in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- Greece won the 50th Eurovision song contest Saturday, with Helena Paparizou's fast-moving "My Number One" beating 23 other competitors.

Paparizou, who finished third in Eurovision in 2001, scored 230 points in telephone voting from viewers in 39 countries for a performance relying heavily on Greek folk music.


Winner - Greece's Helena Paparizou

Finishing far behind in second place was Malta's Chiara, who sang "Angel," perhaps the most traditional of all the performances with a minimum of glitter.

Romania's Luminita Anghel and her group Sistem, singing "Let me Try" with a variety of steel drums on stage, was third.

Ukraine, last year's winner, hosted the contest in what was widely seen as a means to showcase the country after last year's "Orange Revolution" protests.

Hundreds of thousands watched the contest on screens erected in Independence Square, focal point of last year's rallies.

The contest has in recent years attracted far more attention in post-communist eastern Europe than in the West, where the performers and their songs are treated with a degree of disdain.

"I am so happy that this finally came to Greece," Paparizou, an ethnic Greek raised in Sweden, told reporters.

A hot favorite before the contest, she paid tribute to last year's Ukrainian winner, Ruslana, whose frenetic "Wild Dances" was similar in using folk themes.

"Ruslana was an inspiration for other countries to do more traditional things," said Parizou, sporting a revealing short dress like virtually all the female competitors.

President Viktor Yushchenko, who has pledged to take Ukraine closer to Europe after winning last year's bruising election, took to the stage to present an additional prize, a golden fern.

"This is a Ukrainian prize for the best European performer in favor of uniting Europe," the president said, embracing Paparizou on both cheeks.

Some 120 million viewers tuned in to the broadcast, little different from past editions of varying talent, trite lyrics and flamboyant performances.

Several entries used folk melodies, notably Turkey, winner two years ago, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro.

Moldova, an outsider finishing close to the leaders, underscored folk music with a smiling elderly woman in traditional dress beating a drum.

Ukraine sang a modified version of the tune which inspired last year's election protesters, but finished far back.

Grappling with a lack of hotel rooms and patchy post-Soviet tourism facilities, authorities scrubbed Kiev down and closed off the main street for days to create a carnival atmosphere.

Many had hoped the contest would help change Ukraine's image after years of association with political scandals, corruption and the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Source: Reuters

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