Eurovision returns to ABBA's homeland with pop and kitsch
By Mia Shanley
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Bare-chested Irish drummers, a Ukrainian giant and a much-discussed lesbian kiss will be on display at this Saturday's Eurovision final in Sweden which - love it or hate it - promises plenty of pop, kitsch and barefoot ballads.
Some 26 countries will compete for the jewel in the crown of European pop in the homeland of former Swedish supergroup ABBA, one of Eurovision's most successful winners.
Denmark's 20-year-old Emmelie De Forest looks set to steal the show with bookmakers putting her as a clear favorite, trailed by Norway, Ukraine, Russia and Azerbaijan.
Her song - "Only Teardrops" - could keep the show in the Nordics for a second year running, moving it just across a bridge that separates Sweden and Denmark after Loreen won last year's contest for Sweden with dance track "Euphoria".
"It's just quite a catchy song - it's sort of true Eurovision," said Jessica Bridge, a spokeswoman for bookmaker Ladbrokes, of Denmark's entry. "It's euro-pop, and I think it's just struck a chord with people really. I think that's the one."
Ladbrokes has Denmark on 4/6 odds, making the barefoot blonde who performs against a flaming backdrop one of the strongest contenders ever to go into a Eurovision final.
Highlights will undoubtedly include a 2.4 meter (7 feet 8 inches) tall Ukrainian who carries singer Zlata Ognevich onto the stage, representing her inner strength, and Eurovision's first lesbian kiss featured in Finland's "Marry Me", which has drawn media controversy.
Eurovision was started in the 1950s with the aim of uniting Europe after World War II. Today, it has an audience of 125 million - more than the Super Bowl in the United States - and has served as a launching pad for the likes of ABBA, Julio Iglesias and Celine Dion. Continued...