Norwegian wunderkind sweeps Eurovision

17th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The boyish 23-year-old, a highly trained classical musician born in Belarus, got a rapturous reception from television audiences who gave him the highest ever number of points awarded at Eurovision -- 387 -- for the song "Fairy Tale."

Moscow -- Norway's Alexander Rybak swept this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow with a brash performance of a folk-inspired ballad that he penned himself.

The boyish 23-year-old, a highly trained classical musician born in Belarus, got a rapturous reception from television audiences who gave him the highest ever number of points awarded at Eurovision -- 387 -- for the song "Fairy Tale."

Runners up Iceland and Azerbaijan trailed far behind.

"Thank you very much Russia. It's simply wonderful. Thank you," declared a beaming Rybak, speaking in Russian and clasping flowers and his fiddle after the tense voting process was over.

"Thank you very much. You're the best audience in the world!" he added.

In an event that is variously loved and loathed for its over-the-top, kitschy performances, Rybak conquered with a no-frills show in which he combined deft dance steps and violin playing with huge self-assurance.

Formally, the victory for Nordic Norway marked a departure from the recent east European domination of the contest.

However the song appeared targeted to appeal to the crucial television voters of eastern Europe.

Rybak was himself born in Belarus while the song, with its catchy refrain "I'm in love with a fairy tale," featured east European-style folk rhythms and harmonies.

The annual contest is watched by an estimated television audience of over 100 million people, making it one of the most watched events on the planet.

Past winners have variously shot to meteoric fame -- Sweden's ABBA being the most famous example -- or disappeared without trace.

Host country Russia pulled out all the stops to put a fresh gloss on its image, although its efforts were undermined when Moscow police broke up a demonstration by gay rights activists protesting against entrenched homophobia in Russia.

Images of Miss World beauty queen Ksenya Sukhinova festooned the hulking Soviet-built concert hall, dancers performed in a transparent mid-air swimming pool and audience tele-voting was launched by astronauts on the International Space Station.

However about 40 people were arrested including pioneering British campaigner Peter Tatchell after gay rights campaigners timed a series of events to coincide with Eurovision, tapping into the contest's iconic status among European gays.

Amid complaints of an east European bias in recent contests, several acts catered for a perceived liking for folk motifs among avid east European fans.

Portuguese act Flor-de-lis lent heavily on flamenco tradition, while Azerbaijan pioneered a distinctive new brand of high-energy Caucasus pop.

Voting by specialist juries in each country was reintroduced this year alongside tele-voting in order to dilute the tendency for audiences to vote in regional blocs, something west European critics say has tended to skew the results.

AFP/Expatica

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