Carola breezes through to Eurovision final

To the enormous relief of Eurovisionophile Sweden, Carola, this year's veteran representative, has battled her way through to Saturday's final.

Sandra Oxenryd, who, as the other Swede in Thursday’s semi-final, was representing Estonia, was voted out by television viewers across Europe.

Despite going into the semis as the favourite, it was a nerve-wracking evening for Carola. She was the 20th of 23 performers, and had to endure songs ranging from inoffensive on the ear to downright bizarre.

Her own performance of ‘Invincible’, a spirited schlager-style song, was professional, as is to be expected from someone who has packed 15 years of experience under her belt since her first Eurovision victory in 1991.

Supported ably by powerful wind machine which blew her blue gown with its 10 metre train halfway across the stage, Carola eschewed the reliance on flesh which characterised many other female artists’ performances.

In the middle of her act the blue was snapped off to reveal a golden trouser suit, completing the Swedish colour-combo in style.

Sweden’s own Eurovision supremo, Christer Björkman, was effusive in his praise:

“It was a truly magical moment in Eurovision’s history. She is the ultimate festival star,” he said.

But the fact that Carola was among the ten artists who made it to the final appeared to have little to do with the quality of song. Seven countries had already been announced before Sweden, among them the Finnish horror-rockers Lordi and a bunch of amusing Lithuanians singing ‘We are the winners of Eurovision’.

The semi-finalists who will participate in Saturday’s final are Sweden, Ireland, Russia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, Finland, Ukraine, Turkey and Armenia.

The advancing semi-finalists will meet another 14 countries in the final – hosts Greece, the festival’s four largest countries (France, Germany, Spain and the UK), and the nine top scoring nations from last year’s event – Malta, Romania, Israel, Latvia, Moldova, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Croatia.

Though competing in the semi-final on the basis of their poor showing in Eurovision 2005 in Kiev, Ireland are the ranking Eurovision leaders with seven wins, including three in a row in 1992-1994.

Britain and France have five victories, followed by Sweden and the Netherlands with four.

The winning country in Saturday’s final earns the right to host the 2007 contest, to be held on May 10-12.