(Adds comments from Loreen, celebrations in Stockholm)
By Margarita Antidze
BAKU May 27 Sweden's Loreen won the Eurovision
Song Contest in Azerbaijan on Sunday before an international TV
audience of 100 million, days after angering Azeri authorities
by meeting rights activists critical of the host country's human
Opposition groups have used the Eurovision spotlight,
intended by Azerbaijan to promote the country as a destination
for tourism and business, to demand democracy and the
resignation of the government.
Dozens of peaceful protesters have been arrested this month
in the Caspian coastal capital, Baku. Activists say some
buildings in the center of the city were torn down to make way
for the Eurovision arena and residents were forcibly evicted
without proper compensation.
The 28-year-old pop singer won with the song "Euphoria" in
the annual competition of 42 countries, delighting viewers and
the contest's professional judges and dancing barefoot as she
"This is about all of us! Thank you so very much!" Loreen
told a news conference.
She said the first to congratulate her were her family and
her crew. Her mother joined her briefly at the news conference.
"Time has stopped," Loreen said about her feelings after she
was announced as winner.
Russia's entry, rural folk group Buranovskiye Babushki
(Grannies from Buranovo) came in second and Serbia's Zeljko
Joksimovic was third in the 57th year of a contest famous for
The competition took place in a specially built "Crystal
Hall" on the shores of the Caspian.
Loreen has met with activists who accuse the government of
forcing people from their homes for the building of the hall, an
accusation Baku denies. Azeri authorities accused her of making
political statements that had no place at a musical event.
'HISTORICAL AND MAGICAL'
Hundreds of people started pouring into a roundabout in
central Stockholm, dancing in a fountain, honking horns and
waving flags and playing the winning song.
"This is historical and magical! I think I'm going to die.
This is the best thing that has happened to Sweden in 13 years!"
said 20-year-old Tanja Tuuliainen from Stockholm, wearing a
Swedish flag and drinking a bottle of champagne with her
girlfriends on the edge of a fountain in downtown Stockholm.
Sweden's entry last won the Eurovision competition in 1999.
Celebrants were bathing in their underwear in the fountain,
where Swedes traditionally celebrate major sporting event wins.
Hundreds were singing "We're going up up up up up!!!",
repeating a line from Loreen's song.
The Eurovision Song Contest has been a launching pad for
international careers. Swedish pop group Abba became famous
after winning in 1974 with "Waterloo" and Canada's Celine Dion
took top honors in 1988 for Switzerland.
To promote talent over politically and geographically
motivated bloc voting, professional judges now account for 50
percent of a performer's score.
The other half comes from telephone and SMS votes received
by each contestant, with fans unable to vote for their own
As winner, Sweden will host the next Eurovision contest.
(Additional reporting by Mia Shanley in Stockholm; editing by