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Sunday, May 10, 1998 Published at 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK

Special Report

Israel has the Song for Europe
image: [ Dana:
Dana: "Shamed Israel" but an international hit

Israel celebrates winning Eurovision (3'09")
Israel has won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest after a nail-biting finale kept the entire continent on the edge of their seats.

Taking a total of 174 points, Dana International walked off with the annual trophy for Diva after the vote went down to the final jury, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. (Click here to Diva)

Israel had battled throughout the voting against Malta's Chiara and the UK's Imaani, who took second place with 157 points.

[ image: Brit Imaani: Where's the trophy gone?]
Brit Imaani: Where's the trophy gone?
The win for Dana comes after rabbis in Israel said the transsexual singer had brought shame on the country.

Dana International: views her success as a victory for human rights (7'34")
But the singer, a former drag artist, had already amassed a popular following at home and received a standing ovation from fans in the audience.

Switzerland left the contest with the infamous "nul points" after failing to pick up a single point from any of the voting countries.

Slicker contest

This year saw a distinct lack of the usual brash mix of Euro-pap and appalling outfits left over from the 1970s.

In came the clean smart lines of outfits which could have come straight from the studios of Calvin Klein or Donna Karan.

[ image: Belgium's Malanie Cohl: Youngest entrant at 16]
Belgium's Malanie Cohl: Youngest entrant at 16
With one very obvious exception - Germany's Guildo Horn and the Orthopaedic Stockings - the whole contest stepped towards a smarter and more tuneful next century.

Guildo, with his long flowing locks and his new age cape, took the stage like a man who had just surfed a wave of free Europe-wide publicity.

The interval entertainment, as ever, proved marginally better than the actual songs, moving from Scottish pipers, through Asian dance, a male voice choir to a traditional British brass band.

Voting controversies return

This year, for the first time, the winner was partly chosen through a telephone poll across Europe, replacing the mysterious workings of the "national juries" system.

[ image: Guildo Horn: Flamboyant flop]
Guildo Horn: Flamboyant flop
And the telephone voting proved to be just as impartial and entirely based on merit.

Getting into the spirit of some of the past dubious results, the audience at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena booed and cheered whenever they felt countries had blatantly voted for allies.

Greece got the conspiracy theories up and running when it gave 12 points to Cyprus, which promptly returned the compliment.

Germany, denied the chance to vote for Austria who stayed out this year, gave its support to Turkey - probably thanks to the country's large immigrant population.

And of course, some Brits will say the trophy would have had their name on it if it had not been for France which kept up a much-loved tradition of snubbing the UK entry.


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