Russia favorite as Eurovision final kicks off with power ballads and glitter

Reuters News
Posted: May 14, 2016 2:26 PM

By Daniel Dickson and Martin Lindstam

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Australia is hoping its power ballad will steal the Eurovision crown in Saturday's final round of the song contest that Russia is tipped to win with a spectacular light show.

Despite the distance from home, Australia's flag was among the most commonly waved outside the stadium as fans streamed in a few hours before the final when queues started to form.

But the betting odds favor Russian Sergey Lazarev, whose breezy europop number "You are the Only One" shares some elements with last year's winner, Mans Zelmerlow.

Russia started competing in the contest in 1994 and won in 2008. Australia is attending for the second time at the invitation of the organizers.

Ukraine's song about war is also among the favorites to win Saturday's Eurovision final.

Croatia's entry features a giant dress and Germany's takes inspiration from Japan's anime culture.

Host Stockholm has flags flying all over the city. While pedestrians wait to cross the streets, traffic lights play Sweden's 2012 winner "Euphoria" by Loreen and last year's champion Mans Zelmerlow's "Heroes".

"Everyone is just in party mode," said Larry Lee, who came from Sydney to watch Australia's Dami Im perform "Sound of Silence", a James Bond theme-song style ballad.

The tipped number three is Ukraine's Jamala with the song "1944", about strangers coming to "kill you all" - remembering a time when Josef Stalin deported Tatars from Crimea and causing many to draw parallels to Russia's 2014 annexation of the peninsula.

Betting odds put host Sweden's Frans at number four and France's Amir, who sings "J'ai cherché" in English and French, at number five. Frans, a 17-year-old who still attends high school, sings "If I Were Sorry", about a break-up.

Amir was born in France to a Tunisian father and a Moroccan-Spanish mother.

A preliminary count of votes by representatives for fans and press put Russia's Lazarev first, followed by France and Australia.

Fans and press put Italy's Francesca Michielin's flowery performance number five, despite odds suggesting a mid-table finish.

The final begins at 3.00 p.m. ET with a winner expected to be announced around 6.00 p.m. ET.

(Additional reporting by Ilze Filks; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)