Sweden swoons over its Eurovision winner

Sweden swoons over its Eurovision winner

STOCKHOLM - Swedish pop lovers on Sunday celebrated their country's sixth Eurovision victory with an outpouring of national pride, after Mans Zelmerlow edged Russia to win Europe's leading music extravaganza.

"He's my biggest idol, the perfect son-in-law! He is so good, so professional, and when I found out he was coming today, I rushed here," a woman in her fifties told Swedish television channel SVT as she waited feverishly with scores of other fans at Stockholm airport for Zelmerlow to return.

In the city, 25-year-old Kalle couldn't conceal his glee at Zelmerlow's "Heroes" win.

"It's super for Sweden. We're successful in music, and it's a good song to boot," he told AFP of the catchy tune.

Josefine, 23, seized on the moment to indulge in a little bragging.

"This is what happens when we're the best. We often win!" said the blonde, heavily made-up young woman, who wore her hair in a ponytail.

Zelmerlow scored gold after being rejected in two previous bids to represent Sweden at the Eurovision. His refusal to give in endeared the pop singer to his countrymen.

Even the prime minister welcomed Saturday night's victory by the 28-year-old heartthrob, which came 41 years after ABBA won with its classic "Waterloo".

"Congratulations Mans! A fantastic performance. You are now the hero of all Sweden! Next year, we will welcome the whole of Europe here. Celebrate well, and I will call you on Monday to congratulate you," Prime Minister Stefan Lofven wrote on his Facebook page.

Three years after holding the contest in Malmo, southern Sweden, the Scandinavian country must now prepare to host thousands of contest fans again next year.

The press went all-out in its coverage, with the country's leading Aftonbladet daily running a photograph of the winner on its front page.

Another daily, Expressen, branded Zelmerlow a "hero".

"We are celebrating Mans, and we are starting to prepare the next edition of Eurovision," said Hanna Stjarne, director of SVT television channel.

In 2013, some 32,000 tourists travelled to the Malmo area for the show.

Hero to zero for hosts

For first-time contestant Australia, Guy Sebastian's fifth place was also cause for joy, as the country's love for the kitsch competition took on a patriotic bent.

"That was amazing. There was a lot of noise whenever Guy was on and they mentioned Australia," said Kate Hansen, who organised an overnight party in the Australian city of Perth, with many guests donning costumes.

Sebastian said he was "blown away" and amazed by the support he received - while breathing a sigh of relief his entry had made it to the top 10.

"Even just the reaction to the song and the performance was just mind-blowing. I was yeah, blown away," he told Australian host broadcaster SBS.

Meanwhile, the group representing this year's host Austria, the Makemakes, chose to make light of its Eurovision humiliation.

A year after Austrian bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst won the contest, the hosts failed to put a single score on the board.

"We are the zeroes of our time," the Makemakes joked on Facebook, referring to Zelmerlow's refrain, "We are the heroes of our time".

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