Greeks celebrate first Eurovision win

SETTING off firecrackers, blaring their horns and waving flags, thousands of Greeks yesterday continued to celebrate the country’s first win in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Watched by an estimated 150 million TV viewers, Helena Paparizou, a Swedish-born Greek, stormed Europe’s annual songfest on Saturday with the English-language My Number One beating off 23 other countries.

Irish entrants Joseph and Donna McCaul could only look on, having failed to come through the semi-final last Thursday.

Standing on a table and waving a Greek flag, Paparizou said after her win: ‘‘I’m so happy. Thanks to all the countries (who voted) for Greece.’’

The scenes in the Greek capital yesterday were similar, though on a smaller scale, to the wild street celebrations which followed Greece’s win in the European soccer championships last year.

The reported €700,000 costs to state TV for a relentless promotion campaign of the song didn’t please everyone. But a delighted Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos called Paparizou’s win “a great moment”.

Under Eurovision rules, Greece will hold the competition in 2006.

Avramopoulos promised: “It will go very well, just as the Olympic Games did.”

The victory was especially sweet, as Greece trailed badly in early voting. ‘‘Thank you very much Poland,’’ commented one Greek presenter sarcastically after Poland had awarded Greece a single point.

As well as the traditional maximum vote from Cyprus, Greece did well among TV audiences in neighbouring countries. Albania, Turkey and Bulgaria all awarded 12. Even Macedonia, in a longstanding dispute with Greece over its name, gave seven points.

Before this win, Greece’s best performances came with Paparizou as part of duo Antique in 2001, and solo singer Sakis Rouvas in 2004. Both came third.

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