Russian singer booed at Eurovision
Published 24/05/2015 | 03:16
Russian singer Polina Gagarina's performance at the Eurovision Song Contest - an event described by organisers as beyond politics - has been marred by boos apparently prompted by the Ukraine conflict and the Kremlin's anti-gay attitude.
The race for the title between Gagarina and Sweden's Mans Zelmerlow went back and forth for most of the balloting as jurors from 40 countries voted, along a worldwide audience submitting their preference by phone and app. Zelmerlow finally triumphed with 365 points, with Gagarina receiving 303. Italy came third.
Cheers greeted Zelmerlow's win, but the crowd's reaction to Gagarina struck a jarring note for those who believed in the contest's slogan, Building Bridges.
Kiev did not send a candidate this year. With many in the West viewing Moscow as the aggressor in Ukraine, the Russian's song, A Million Voices, and its message of peace and understanding raised some eyebrows during the qualifiers leading up to the contest final.
As scattered boos rang out after points were given to Gagarina, one of the hosts reminded the audience that "music should stand over politics tonight".
With many Russians critical of last year's winner, bearded cross-dressing Austrian diva Conchita Wurst, some of the negative reaction may also have been directed at Russia's generally repressive official climate against homosexuality.
Wurst rejected the boos, calling them "incomprehensible", and noted that Gagarina "cannot be blamed for the rules" in her home country.
Promoting homosexuality is against the law in Russia. Many there view Wurst as a threat to traditional family values, and a win by Gagarina would have brought the event to Moscow, a scenario viewed with alarm by the Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Kirill, in comments to Russian news agencies, warned ahead of the event of "all those bearded female singers", declaring that acts such as Wurst's promoted values "repulsive to our soul and culture".
Wurst took such comments in her stride Saturday, saying: "I would have come" had Russia won.
Europe's 60th songfest, held this year in Vienna, Austria, carried the extra attraction of an entry by Australia. Many were hoping its candidate, Guy Sebastian, would take home the trophy, giving it a place in next year's contest. But Australia, given a wild-card entry this year due to its enthusiastic fan base, came fifth - not enough to secure a spot in 2016.
Sweden's sixth Eurovision victory came 41 years after Abba's triumph with Waterloo launched their world career. Only Ireland has been more successful, with seven triumphs.
In his pop number Heroes, the Swede chose to forego the usual elaborate stage effects, relying instead on his strong singing and an innovative backdrop.
About 200 million people watched on TV as the 27 finalists, the most ever, battled it out musically. Approximately 10,000 people followed the contest live in Vienna's mammoth Stadthalle, with 25,000 others crowding the main public viewing venue in front of City Hall.
Beyond Abba, other Eurovision winners who went on to pop fame were Celine Dion and Johnny Logan, who triumphed three times as a performer and songwriter.
The Eurovision final hosts announced that the event had been officially inducted into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running annual TV music competition.