Sweden snags top prize in Eurovision Song Contest

Sweden's Loreen performs during the dress rehearsal for the Eurovision song contest.

Story highlights

  • Swedish singer Loreen wins for her song "Euphoria"
  • The contest was held in Azerbaijan, amid controversy
  • Singers from 26 countries took part in the final
A Swedish performer emerged victorious in the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, beating out competition from 25 other nations.
Singer Loreen, 28, won for "Euphoria," an upbeat dance-style song. Dressed in dark colors, she sang in shadows, playing off flashing lights, wind and snow.
"I want to say that I love you so much. Thank you for believing in me," she said soon after winning, addressing her fans. "This is not just mine. This is ours."
The annual event attracts an estimated global audience of 125 million and is loved for its combination of over-the-top costumes, kitsch pop songs, sometimes dubious talent and international rivalries.
Among the more unusual contenders this year was Buranovskiye Babushki, a group of self-described grannies from Russia. Dressed in flowing skirts and sensible shoes, they performed a choreographed baking routine. Russia finished second behind Sweden.
Serbia won third with a performance by Zeljko Joksimovic.
Donny Montell, Lithuania's entry, sang "Love is Blind," ripping off a blindfold as he broke into dance.
Yet for all its entertainment value, talk in the run-up to this year's contest was dominated by where it was being held -- Azerbaijan -- as its performers.
The host nation generally uses the event to promote itself to tourists and foreign investors.
But this year, human rights activists have questioned whether Azerbaijan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, should have been allowed to host the contest given what they describe as its poor record on freedom of expression.
Human Rights Watch last month urged the contest's organizers and other nations to put pressure on Azerbaijan's government to prevent "violence against journalists, social media activists, and human rights defenders; refrain from using politically-motivated criminal charges against journalists and others; release people imprisoned on politically-motivated charges; and allow peaceful assemblies."
At present, Azerbaijan "remains hostile towards free media and other forms of free expression," the group said. "Police have violently dispersed protests, beating and arresting peaceful demonstrators and organizers."