May 27, 2012 - 13:49 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Swedish star Loreen has beaten off a challenge from dancing Russian pensioners to win a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, that the host hoped would banish qualms over its human rights record, AFP reports.
Loreen, 28, wowed voters with a catchy dance number called Euphoria featuring an upbeat chorus accompanied by a high-kicking dance duet and a storm of artificial snow.
The victory brings Eurovision back to one of its heartlands.
Sweden's most famous band ABBA gained worldwide fame after winning the contest in 1974 with Waterloo - for many the song that defined the kitschy contest for all time.
Second place went to Russia's heartwarming Buranovskiye Babushki, a choir of elderly women from a village who performed a disco song Party for Everybody in English and their local Finnic language with a stove and a tray as props.
Third was Serbian Eurovision veteran Zelijko Joksimovic who had already competed in three previous contests, once as a singer and twice as a composer.
The host entry Sabina Babayeva was not all that far from securing a repeat of Azerbaijan's 2011 success that earned the nation the right to host the contest with her When the Music Dies coming in fourth.
There was disappointment however for Britain after veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck - brought in to revive its notoriously bad Eurovision fortunes - who scored just 12 points and came second last with his balladLove Will Set You Free.
The show itself included the usual range of the weird and exotic including a Norwegian rapper of Iranian origin who came last, half-naked French gymnasts and an Albanian entry with a song solely in her native language and a truly terrifying top note.
The festive atmosphere was clouded by the detentions of dozens of opposition activists who attempted to hold several peaceful demonstrations calling for democratic freedoms in the tightly-controlled state.
The event was also far beyond the reach of ordinary Azerbaijanis, with tickets for the final starting at 160 manat ($A209), half the monthly income of the average Azeri according to World Bank statistics.
Armenia had pulled out of the contest for security reasons. Besides, those who had visited Nagorno Karabakh were barred from travelling to the contest.