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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 02:51 GMT 03:51 UK
'Latin' Latvia wins Eurovision
Marija Naumova
Latvia's Latin-tinged effort won European hearts
Latvia has won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in the country's history.

Marija Naumova's Latin-influenced song I Wanna beat off strong competition from Malta to win the prize with the very last vote of the competition.

Malta's Ira Losco
Malta's Ira Losco was pipped at the post
Britain's Eurovision Song Contest hopeful Jessica Garlick came a respectable joint third with 111 points.

The votes of Lithuania decided the competition with just seven votes between Malta and Latvia after the penultimate round of results.

Latvia finished with 176 points, ahead of Malta with 164 points and Estonia and the UK, both with 111 points.

The small Baltic country only entered the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 2000.

Jessica Garlick
Jessica Garlick was plucked from obscurity by Pop Idol
Marija Naumova is well-known in her home country and has had several hits on the Latvian music scene.

Her song and her dance antics, reminiscent of Bucks Fizz in 1981, won over the 23 other competing countries.

Latvia will now host the Eurovision contest next year.


Singers representing 24 countries, from Slovenian female impersonators to a Greek boy band, competed in front of 7,000 flag-waving fans at the Saku Suurhall in Tallinn, the capitalof Estonia.

The winner was chosen by television viewers who called special hotlines to vote.

As the voting began, Malta and Latvia quickly established themselves as the countries to beat and easily fended off a late surge of votes for France and Spain.

Pre-competition favourites Spain and Germany finished seventh and 20th.

Despite backing from UK punters Garlick managed only to earn the top 12 points from Austria, with five countries giving the song, Come Back, no points at all.

The 21-year-old told BBC Liquid News: "I am really proud I came third.

"I have done the job I came to do."

The host country Estonia came joint third ahead of France, Cyprus, Spain and Sweden.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Dobbie in Estonia
"This was the year anthemic disco took over"

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