AFP

VIENNA

Swedish singer Mans Zelmerlow won a nail-biting 60th edition on Saturday of the Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s annual pop extravaganza, narrowly beating Russia.

In Sweden’s sixth victory - 41 years after national superstars ABBA won - Zelmerlow scored 365 points ahead of Russia’s Polina Gagarina on 303 and Italian pop opera trio Il Volo on 292. Other strong performers among the 27 finalists in Vienna were Belgian Loic Nottet and Australia’s Guy Sebastian, whose country entered for the first time as a wild card for the 60th anniversary. Ireland, which failed to make it into the final, still holds the record for the number of Eurovision victories with seven trophies to its name. Moreover, Excited Australians partied and sang, with some dressed up in glittering costumes as they cheered on their wildcard entry to Eurovision Sunday despite the song contest airing in the early hours of the morning.

The country’s love for the kitsch competition took on a patriotic bent this year as its entrant Guy Sebastian wowed audiences in Australia, with many delighted with his final fifth place ranking. ‘Everyone was so happy that Guy was in the top five,’ said Kate Hansen, who organised an overnight Eurovision party in the western city of Perth for almost 50 people, with many donning costumes and drinking wine from sparkling glasses.

‘That was amazing. There was a lot of noise whenever Guy was on and they mentioned Australia,’ Hansen, who wore a colourful, butterfly-themed costume to reflect the Malmo logo of the 2013 contest in Sweden, told AFP. Dozens of fans braved the near freezing temperatures in the southern city of Melbourne, wearing beanies and scarves to dance and sing at an outdoor live screening of the musical spectacle in the heart of the city from 5:00am local time (1900 GMT).

Others watched the final - which is marking its 60th anniversary - from their bedrooms in pyjamas and dressing gowns, with Eurovision the top trending topic on Twitter in Australia as they took to the social media site to support Sebastian. ‘Whatever the outcome @GuySebastian just showed the globe how bloody good he is. That was a world class performance #AUS #SBSEurovision,’ one user tweeted.

‘We were hoping to just not finish last because that would have been a bit embarrassing,’ the 33-year-old told Australian host broadcaster SBS. ‘But definitely, you know, top 10 we thought was going to be amazing and so to go top five we’re pumped. ‘Even just the reaction to the song and the performance was just mind-blowing. I was yeah, blown away.’

Music lecturer Catherine Strong, who woke up early in Melbourne to catch the extravaganza, said Australia’s inclusion this year made watching the scoring announcements ‘very tense’. ‘You feel more invested emotionally,’ Strong said. ‘It probably wouldn’t have mattered who was singing, you’d still get behind them and cheer them on.’

Another avid fan, Adele Adell, who has watched the event since it first started airing on SBS in 1983, said she and her partner Jeff Neal were already booking tickets to watch next year’s Eurovision in Sweden following Mans Zelmerlow’s win.

 ‘It was very different with Australia in it. It was pretty exciting being able to vote... we were very lucky to be invited to participate as a guest,’ Adell said. ‘We’ve been to two - 2013 and 2014. Now we’re just planning on where we’re going to stay in Sweden for 2016.’