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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Eurovision winner gets hero's welcome
The Latvian winners wait for the announcement
Latvia is optimistic it can put on a good show
The Latvian winners of the Eurovision Song Contest have returned to a hero's welcome and a personal vote of thanks from the president.

Marija Naumova, known as Marie N, narrowly beat Malta on Saturday for the Baltic nation's first victory in the competition.

The 21-year-old singer and law graduate, who triumphed with her Latin-style I Wanna, said she was overwhelmed by the Latvian public's response on Sunday.


We now have the possibility to accomplish something beautiful

Vaira Vike-Freiberga
Latvian President
It was the second successive triumph for a Baltic state after Estonia's victory last year.

And the Latvian authorities are already bullish about being able to organise a good show next year despite limited funds.

I Wanna won the prize over Malta with the very last vote of the competition, while Britain's hopeful Jessica Garlick came a respectable joint third with 111 points.

"We were moved to tears by the reception - it was like holding Latvia in our hands," Marija Naumova told the crowd of flag-waving well-wishers on arriving home from the Estonian capital Tallinn.

"It was an awesome feeling."

Neighbour's vote

Up to 5,000 people packed the Old Town square of Latvia's capital Riga to greet Naumova.

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

Jessica Garlick
UK entry Jessica Garlick managed joint third
Latvia finished with 176 points, ahead of Malta with 164 points and Estonia and the UK, both with 111 points.

"Next year we now have the possibility to accomplish something beautiful due to this success," Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said at the welcoming ceremony.

"Thank you once again Marija," she added.

Naumova, a member of Latvia's Russian minority who has had several hits in the Baltic state, attributed victory to flamboyant choreography, Latvian work ethic and inspiration drawn from wine for her victory.

Fluent in five languages, Naumova said she would try to repeat Abba's feat of turning Eurovision success into mainstream popularity.


She said her president had called after the event to congratulate her and that the government said it would consider a financial reward for the act on Monday.

Estonia's triumph last year sparked fears their public broadcaster would not have the funds to organise the event.

"But I can ask did you notice this last night," Arvids Bubris, head of Latvia's Eurovision delegation, asked reporters on Sunday.

He said Latvian public broadcast funds were tight but the country would manage to put on the event.

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

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