DUESSELDORF, GERMANY (AP) - Europeans will ditch financial worries to rally behind their favorite performers in the continent’s annual Eurovision Song Contest as finalists from 25 countries take the stage Saturday night.
By midday, the first fans had started arriving at the Fortuna Duesseldorf Arena, selected as Germany’s venue for the international pop music extravaganza because of its size. Some 38,000 people will watch the event live, while millions of others from Finland to Albania, Poland to Portugal, will watch on TV.
More than 120 million viewers are expected to tune in to see if Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landruth can defend her title against acts such as French tenor Amaury Vassili and Irish twins “Jedward,” both of which are predicted to have a strong chances at a win.
Asked by reporters after Friday’s dress rehearsal whether the pressure was getting to her, 19-year-old Lena insisted she was simply having fun.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” she said. “I’m not putting any pressure on myself.”
If she were to win, Lena could write history as the first contestant to take back-to-back Eurovision titles since the event was founded in 1951 _ though strictly speaking it’s the song that wins, not the peformer.
Competing against Lena are 20 finalists who were selected in semi-final rounds earlier in the week, along with contestants from France, Britain, Spain and Italy _ who along with Germany shoulder the bulk of the event’s cost and automatically qualify.
Viewers can cast votes by SMS or phone, which count for 50 percent of the contestants’ final score. The other 50 percent are determined by panels of juries selected by each nation.
British bookmakers have tipped Vassili to take this year’s title, with his operatic track “Sognu,” sung in Corsican.
Irish twins John and Edward Grimes, who go by “Jedward” have also been popular _ as much for their electro-pop song “Lipstick” as their quiffy blond hair.
Yet British boy band Blue has also attracted a following for their pop number, “I Can.” Speaking to reporters on Friday, singer Lee Ryan said he was surprised at how much fun the competition had been.
“This contest brings Europe together and it brings people together,” Ryan said. “And that’s the reason I went into music.”