MOSCOW (Reuters) - Norway won the 54th Eurovision Song Contest early Sunday in Moscow, when singer Alexander Rybak beat 24 other contestants with his song Fairytale.
Rybak scored a record 387 points, beating Iceland with 218 points and Azerbaijan with 207 points. It was the third time Norway has won the competition, one of the most watched television shows in Europe every year.
“Now Norway is really on the map,” said an overjoyed Rybak at the post-tournament news conference.
The floppy-haired Rybak, a 23-year-old ethnic Belarussian who grew up outside Oslo, had been the pre-tournament favorite and he wooed the crowd with his singing and violin playing in the final at a stadium built for the 1980 Olympic Games.
In an interview with Reuters before the competition started Rybak -- who composes his own music -- said the song was based on a traditional Norwegian fairytale but with a modern twist.
Asked at the news conference why he thought he had won, Rybak answered: “In Russia they like nostalgia and melancholy. In Norway we’re the happiest people in the world. The mix of them was a success.”
Moscow was reported to have spent $42 million on the five-day event, making it the most expensive competition in Eurovision’s history.
As usual glitz and kitsch dominated the show, including dancing Roman gladiators and one performer clad in a blue sequined mask, writhing on the floor.
But there was also a smattering of well-established stars. Andrew Lloyd Webber, famed for his successful musicals, composed the British entry and U.S. burlesque dancer Dita von Teese played a supporting role in the German song.
Politics also bubbled to the surface of this year’s competition. Organisers banned Georgia’s entry earlier this year because its song was considered a political jab at Russia, with which it fought a brief war last August.
And Saturday dozens of riot police detained gay rights protesters who had defied the Moscow authorities and tried to stage a banned demonstration.
Rybak appeared to throw his support behind the gay rights protesters when he said at the news conference: “Why did they (the Moscow police) spend all their energy stopping gays in Moscow when the biggest gay parade was here tonight?”
As winner, Norway will host the next Eurovision Song Contest.
Editing by Tim Pearce