Monday, May 22, 2006
Athens (Reuters): Finland was the surprise winner of the 51st Eurovision song contest with the monster-themed rock band Lordi beating 23 other competitors. Lordi scored 292 points from telephone voters in 38 countries with its song ''Hard Rock Hallelujah'' in a performance in Greece that both shocked and amused viewers. Finishing in second place was Russia with 248 points going to Dima Bilan's ''Never let you go''. Bosnia was third with 229 points going to the group Hari Mata Hari singing the melodic ''Layla''. Performances featured a wide range of styles from disco and rap to ethnically inspired tunes.
The Finnish band thanked viewers for voting for their song, which featured the lead singer hoisting a double-headed axe over his head in a performance inspired by 1970s rock band Kiss. What this has shown is that there are different styles of music than just pop and rock,'' Mr Lordi, the lead singer of the band, told a news conference. ''That should be the goal of Eurovision.'' Although widely associated with kitsch and trite lyrics in the west of the continent, the annual contest has drawn increasing interest from viewers in Eastern Europe.
The Eurovision contest was broadcast live across Europe with an estimated 100 million viewers tuning in and some 25,000 visitors and journalists arriving in Athens for the event. Although many past winners have faded into obscurity, it has helped launched the careers of performers like Abba and Celine Dion. In Finland, young people on the streets of the capital Helsinki welcomed the news of the triumph enthusiastically. ''It's amazing that Finland has finally won something. Though I don't like Lordi myself, it's great! We don't win anything,'' said Mari Pelli, an 18-year-old childminder.
Groups of young people walked from bar to bar shouting the lyrics of the winning song at the tops of their voices. ''I'm very happy that they won. Eurovision is a show for entertainment, not for music,'' said Mikko Mattila, a 30-year-old student. ''It's not Sibelius, but they have their own way. Lordi is the best,'' said Satu Puolakka, a 19-year-old student.