Azerbaijan wins 2011 Eurovision Song Contest

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Azerbaijan won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, the first time the country has won and in only its fourth appearance in Europe's annual pop extravaganza, watched by millions.

Azerbaijani duo Ell and Nikki took top honours with their song "Running Scared", seeing off competition from 24 other countries at the competition, held in Duesseldorf, Germany.

Second was Italy, and Sweden came third. Switzerland came last.

"Thank you, we love you," said Ell, real name Eldar Gasimov.

They saw off strong competition from Germany's Lena, who was hoping to become the first person in Eurovision's long history to win two years running, quiffed Irish twins Jedward and French tenor Amaury Vassili.

Often cringe-worthy but always watchable, the contest is a cherished institution, with 43 nations -- including some from outside Europe -- competing, then whittled down to 25 for the grand final.

The TV show, one of the world's longest-running, is now broadcast not only in Europe, but also in Australia, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States, even though they do not participate.

Viewers at home in all 43 competing nations voted for their favourite song by phone or mobile phone text message, accounting for 50 percent of each country's vote.

The remaining half was determined by five-member expert juries in each participating country.

© 2011 AFP

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