Carola builds up for Eurovision semis

As if waiting a year weren’t difficult enough, the 2006 Eurovision contest continues to build up steam – and drama - before Saturday night’s showdown in Athens. The one question all Swedish fans are asking is: can Carola pull it off … again?

Greek TV stations aren’t making it any easier for the Swedish diva. War is being waged days before the finale. Two broadcasters are showing Carola’s tantrum from last year’s Allsång på Skansen at which she tore up a plant and threw it at the crowd. The Greeks are playing hardball, trying to push voters towards their own artist, Anna Vissi, said Aftonbladet.

Cyprus’s artist Annet Artani said she suspects sabotage might be happening in the days before the finale.

“They are scared of Carola,” Artani said to Aftonbladet. “My sound has worsened each day so I understand how Carola has it. I don’t know if it is the delegation, Vissi’s team or her fans that are behind this.”

Carola said she is focused despite all the rumors.

“I am used to things happening behind the scenes and prepared for that. I am moving forward and am very focused,” she said.

Dress rehearsals are nearly through leaving newspapers and bloggers humming about Carola Häggkvist’s prospects for Thursday’s much-anticipated semi-final appearance. Although the star has won Eurovision before, it has been 15 years since her last performance, when she won with the song “Fångad,” in Rome in 1991.

A cool-headed Carola avoided what could have been a drama on Wednesday when two minutes before her second rehearsal, her heel broke off of her shoe.

“I thought I had fallen into a hole in the floor with my heel, but I looked down and saw my heel lying next to my shoe,” Carola said during a press conference on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to go up on to the stage heel-less so I made a quick “tire change” and it went well. We’ll make sure the shoe is fixed for tomorrow.”

Carola, who is nearly 40, is scheduled to perform “Invincible.” Dot Eurovision, a popular Eurovision fan site, said Carola still looks fairly sure of making it through the semi-finals and on to Saturday’s final.

It said several people noticed the reception in the event centre was less enthusiastic than they had expected. Over the years, Carola has done rock, pop, ballads, Christmas tunes and even performed in musicals and on TV.

Eurovision fans will decide themselves Saturday night whether Sweden will be the contest’s 51st winner.

Adam Ewing