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Sweden believes in Carola at Eurovision

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13:33 CEST+02:00
Allegations of a sex scandal, a Swedish-Finnish battle of beauty and the beast, and a frosty reception at the last rehearsal: the Carola camp has certainly had its share of controversy in the 24 hours leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest final.

But at 9pm on Saturday the talking is over - with the exception of some painful banter between the American and Greek hosts - and the songs begin.

Sweden's Carola is joint favourite with the Greek entry, Anna Vissi. But while Vissi enjoys the confidence of a home fixture, the road to glory has not been smooth for the Swedish diva.

On Thursday there was a semi-final to be negotiated and the randomness of the qualifiers' quality made Carola's progress all the more gratifying to Swedish fans.

Sweden's Eurovision supremo, Christer Björkman, called his charge's performance "a truly magical moment in Eurovision history".

But Iceland's representative, Silvia Night - who had herself been booed by the Athens audience after her eccentric performance - had another explanation.

Night accused Carola of having had sex with one of the Eurovision organisers, Svante Stockselius.

"They did it in the car outside the hotel - I saw it with my own eyes," she said. "He manipulated the votes so she would go through. It's horrible what she's done."

Carola did not respond but Stockselius was most amused.

"She sounds like a bad loser," he chuckled on the phone to Aftonbladet.

"The telephone votes decided who won," he said.

As indeed they will on Saturday night. But even that has its difficulties. Finnish horror rockers Lordi have been accused of attempting to influence the votes by setting up a web site to urge people to 'stick a finger up at Eurovision'.

The site urged fans to vote as many times as possible for the band - which has distanced itself from the action, fearing that the whole scam could backfire.

A consummate pro, Carola will be ignoring all such peripheral nonsense and focusing on her performance. At certain points in her song, Invincible, there's a touch of Bonnie Tyler gargling with lemonade about her voice - but that could be more by accident than design.

Either way, the audience at the final rehearsal on Friday night was not impressed, booing her off the stage.

"The voice wasn't holding up," Carola whispered, in an attempt to save her throat for Saturday night.

She was said to be considering a dose of cortisone just to make sure.

"I hope and want to believe that it will work in the final," she said.

The final begins at 9pm on SVT1.

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