May 19, 2016 - 2:07pm
Ukrainian singer Jamala snatched victory from arch-rival Russia to win the Eurovision song contest Saturday, adding a touch of political drama to the annual kitsch extravaganza, reports AFP.
After a tense vote count, during which it seemed Australia was going to run away with the crown until the audience votes came in, Jamala was declared the winner in Stockholm after a heart-felt performance of "1944", a song about the deportations of Crimean Tatars during World War II.
Jamala's entry-- which stirred controversy over perceived veiled criticism of Russia's recent annexation of Crimea-- scored 534 points, closely followed by Australia's Dami Im with 511 points, the juries' favourite.
The hotly tipped former Russian child star Sergey Lazarev came in third with 491 points.
Germany was the worst performer of the evening, with Jamie-Lee Kriewitz's "Ghost" scoring just 11 points, followed by the Czech Republic with 41 points.
In Moscow, public TV channel Rossiya 1's commentators congratulated Jamala on her win, without mentioning the Crimean Tatars.
They said Jamala's song was "about her family members", without offering further details.
Jamala herself described the win as "amazing".
"I was sure that if you sing, if you talk about truth it really could touch people," the 32-year-old said at the winner's press conference.
The stunning turnaround in the final minutes of the show capped an eventful 61st edition of the love-it-or-hate-it kitsch fest, which was expected to be the most-watched Eurovision since the event was first staged in 1956.
Scores were decided by national juries as well as viewers. In an attempt to give the outcome a more democratic feel this year, fans were given the final say -- adding some last-minute suspense to the contest.
Among the evening's other highlights was a guest appearance by US pop star Justin Timberlake, who entertained the crowd with his hit "Rock Your Body" before performing his new single, the upbeat "Can't Stop the Feeling", which itself wouldn't have sounded out of place in the Eurovision line-up.
In another sign of the contest's growing appeal, Eurovision was for the first time broadcast live in the United States on the Logo channel, which is aimed at the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
The show was also live-streamed on YouTube, giving Google a piece of a pie once reserved for European public broadcasters.
"The Eurovision Song Contest is now a truly global phenomenon," producer Jon Ola Sand said, amid expectations that the show will push last year's record of 197 million viewers worldwide.