CULTURE

‘Alcohol is free’ gives Greece sixth place at Eurovision as Denmark wins

Greece achieved one if its best results in the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday when the group Koza Mostra, featuring Agathon Iakovidis, came in sixth with their Balkan pop-tinged number “Alcohol Is Free.”

There was also success for two Greeks who were involved with the second-placed entry from Azerbaijan.

Performing 21st out of 26 countries, the Greek group picked up the top mark of 12 points from Cyprus and San Marino, as well as 10 points from Albania and Russia. The United Kingdom awarded Greece 8 points.

The final was reportedly watched by 85 percent of TV viewers in Greece, where the Eurovision Song Contest traditionally grabs the public’s attention.

Koza Mostra’s austerity-inspired number, with Iakovidis playing the baglamas (a smaller version of the bouzouki), gathered 152 points in total and was Greece’s seventh-best showing in the competition since the country first took part in 1974.

Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest won the contest, which was watched by an international TV audience of around 125 million, clinching the coveted crown of euro-pop with a folksy ballad backed by a wall of fire, flutes and drums.

The barefoot 20-year-old blonde stole the show as predicted by bookmakers with «Only Teardrops» in a final that saw 26 countries battle it out in the southern Swedish city of Malmo.

“I could feel the fans and all the energy in the arena,» de Forest said after the event, adding that she was particularly proud to win in Sweden as her late father was Swedish and a Eurovision fan.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m just the happiest girl in the world,» she said.

Denmark, which has won the contest twice before – most recently in 2000 with the Olsen Brothers’ «Fly on the Wings of Love» – was clearly in the lead even after just half of the votes were cast.

The show’s host, Swedish comedian Petra Mede, went ahead and announced the country’s win before the final votes were read out, with the red and white Danish flag flashing on her gown in a classic over-the-top Eurovision moment.

“How many times can we win and lose? How many times can we break the rules between us? Only teardrops,» the Danish performer sang, beaming ear-to-ear as she repeated her winning song to the audience against a fiery backdrop.

Her victory means the contest will move just across the bridge to Denmark next year, keeping the contest in the Nordics for a second year running after Sweden’s Loreen won last year’s contest in Azerbaijan with her dance track «Euphoria».

Azerbaijan took second place in the competition with «Hold Me». Greek Fokas Evagelinos was the artistic director for the Azerbaijani entry, while the song was also composed by a Greek, Dimitris Kontopoulos.

Third place went to Ukraine with «Gravity».

Though Sweden opted to tighten the budget for this year’s show after oil-rich Azerbaijan spent lavishly in 2012, pop fans around the world still got their usual three-hour dose of heavy-duty kitsch.

Famed as much for the costumes and characters on stage as its – sometimes – catchy tunes, Eurovision’s line-up included a 2.4-metre (7-foot-10-inch) tall Ukrainian who carried singer Zlata Ognevich, and a girl-on-girl kiss in Finland’s «Marry Me», which drew media controversy.

Eurovision, one of the world’s longest-running television programmes, was started in the 1950s to help foster a spirit of unity after World War Two.

In an attempt to ensure that musical quality takes precedence over geographically motivated bloc voting from television viewers, professional judges now account for 50 percent of a performer’s score.

The other half comes from the number of telephone and SMS votes each contestant receives, with fans unable to vote for their own country’s entry.

In its nearly six-decade history, Eurovision has been a launching pad for the likes of Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias and Olivia Newton-John. ABBA won the contest with «Waterloo» in 1974.

[Kathimerini English Edition & Reuters]