Germany's Lena seeks to defend Euro songfest title
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN (Reuters) - German teenager Lena will attempt to become the first Eurovision Song Contest winner to defend her title successfully on Saturday in the annual competition famous for light entertainment and heavy-duty kitsch.
A television audience of 125 million from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caspian Sea is expected to watch the 56th annual pop music competition that is, like the performing acts themselves, taken seriously in some places and lampooned in others.
Germany's Lena Meyer-Landrut, who won last year's contest in Oslo with a British-style pop song "Satellite," will be up against performers from 24 countries in Saturday's final (1900 GMT) after a field of 43 nations was reduced in two semi-finals.
While the Eurovision Song Contest is derided as a monument to mediocrity and bad taste in some countries, it has legions of enthusiastic followers in others -- especially in this year's host country Germany, where 2,500 journalists are covering it.
It has been a launching pad for international careers. Swedish pop group Abba became famous after winning in 1974 with "Waterloo" and Canada's Celine Dion took top honors in 1988 with "Ne partez pas sans moi" while competing for Switzerland.
A singer named Ruslana won for Ukraine in 2004 and was later rewarded with a seat in parliament.
From its start in Switzerland in 1956, the contest conceived by the European Broadcasting Union has grown into a giant event watched by millions in a glitzy live broadcast where spangly costumed performers belt out their songs in different languages.
Fans draped in their national flags or clad in outrageous outfits will pack the 36,000 seat arena in Duesseldorf and cheer the 25 finalists who will mix glitz and kitsch, ballads, rock 'n' roll and disco to try to win the highest number of votes. Continued...