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Ukraine snatches Eurovision crown from Australia

The winning song, 1944, is about the deportations of Crimean Tatars during World War II.

Ukraine's Jamala celebrates with the trophy after winning the Eurovision Song Contest final with the song 1944 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ukraine's Jamala celebrates with the trophy after winning the Eurovision Song Contest final with the song 1944 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Image: Martin Meissner/AP/Press Association Images

UKRAINIAN SINGER JAMALA snatched victory from Australia and Russia to win the Eurovision song contest last night, adding a touch of political drama to the annual kitsch extravaganza.

After a tense vote count, during which it seemed Australia was going to run away with the crown until the audience votes came in, Jamala was declared the winner in Stockholm after a heartfelt performance of 1944, a song about the deportations of Crimean Tatars during World War II.

Jamala’s entry — which stirred controversy over perceived veiled criticism of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea — scored 534 points, closely followed by Australia’s Dami Im with 511 points, the favourite of the juries.

The hotly-tipped former Russian child star Sergey Lazarev came in third with 491 points.

Germany was the worst performer of the evening, with Jamie-Lee Kriewitz’s Ghost scoring just 11 points, followed by the Czech Republic with 41 points. Britain’s Joe and Jake came third last.

In Moscow, public TV channel Rossiya 1′s commentators congratulated Jamala on her win, without mentioning the Crimean Tatars. They said Jamala’s song was “about her family members”, without offering further details.

Jamala herself described the win as “amazing”.

“I was sure that if you sing, if you talk about truth it really could touch people,” the 32-year-old said at the winner’s press conference.

The stunning turnaround in the final minutes of the show capped an eventful 61st edition of the love-it-or-hate-it kitsch fest, which was expected to be the most-watched Eurovision since the event was first staged in 1956.

National juries

Scores were decided by national juries as well as viewers. In an attempt to give the outcome a more democratic feel this year, fans were given the final say — adding some last-minute suspense to the contest.

Among the evening’s other highlights was a guest appearance by US pop star Justin Timberlake, who performed Rock Your Body and Can’t Stop the Feeling.

In another sign of the contest’s growing appeal, Eurovision was for the first time broadcast live in the United States on the Logo channel, which is aimed at the LGBT community.

The show was also live-streamed on YouTube, giving Google a piece of a pie once reserved for European public broadcasters.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is now a truly global phenomenon,” producer Jon Ola Sand said, amid expectations that the show will push last year’s record of 197 million viewers worldwide.

© AFP 2016

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