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Saturday, May 29, 1999 Published at 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK


Scandinavians tipped for Eurovision success

Precious toast their chances of success

For BBC Online's Eurovision site, click here.

For an interview with Louise Rose from Precious, click here.

The songs which won Eurovision for the UK
Iceland and Sweden have overtaken the UK as favourites to win the Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem.

About 200 million viewers in more than 30 countries are expected to tune in on Saturday night.

But ultra-Orthodox Jews are angered by the appearance of last year's Israeli winner, transsexual Dana International, and the fact that final preparations were scheduled for the Sabbath. Security is tight for the big event.

The BBC's Betty Redondo: Eurovision is taken seriously by everyone but the British
According to bookmaker William Hill, British girl group Precious are 5-1 to win, with the Scandinavian entries both 7-2.

Precious, whose song Say It Again entered the UK singles chart at number six on Sunday, were chosen by viewers in a BBC phone vote in March.

[ image: Fans of camp and kitsch remember old Eurovisions fondly]
Fans of camp and kitsch remember old Eurovisions fondly
It is the first time in 20 years a UK act has not started out as favourites at home to win the contest.

The fivesome hope to emulate Katrina and the Waves' victory in 1997, as well as wins by past acts - Bucks Fizz in 1981, Brotherhood of Man in 1976, Lulu in 1969, and Sandie Shaw in 1967.

Singer Jenny Frost says: "We want to make Eurovision trendy again - we know there's a stigma about it and we want to get rid of it."

But the 43-year-old contest is loved by fans of all things camp and kitsch - and broadcaster Terry Wogan, who will commentate on his 27th Eurovision on BBC One.

[ image: Sweden's Charlotte Nilsson relaxes away from rehearsals]
Sweden's Charlotte Nilsson relaxes away from rehearsals
"It's as constant as the Northern Star - and unchanging in its mediocrity," he quips.

This year's contest is the first in 25 years to allow entrants to sing in languages other than their native tongue - so most songs are in English.

Iceland's Selma is heavily tipped with All Out Of Luck - with her rehearsals reportedly meeting with wild applause. Sweden's Charlotte Nilsson, who sings Take Me To Your Heaven, is a soap star in her native country.

Cyprus's Marlain is also firmly in the running at 7-1 with It Will Be Love. She is a student at London's Royal Academy of Music.

[ image: Now, most votes are cast by phone]
Now, most votes are cast by phone
Ireland's entry, The Mullans - Belfast sisters Bronagh and Karen - are rated at 10-1. Irish eyes have frequently smiled at Eurovision - the country has a record seven winners.

Poland have the longest odds at 100-1 - not helped by singer Meitek Szczesniak losing his voice and having to be taken to hospital.

Terry Wogan covered his first Eurovision in 1971 at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre. Despite the jibes thrown at the contest, he is sure of its enduring popularity.

"It's indicative of how things have changed in that the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin is a tiny music hall which couldn't hold more than about 400 people. It just shows how Eurovision has grown.

[ image: Ireland's entry: Karen (blowing out the candles) and Bronagh Mullan]
Ireland's entry: Karen (blowing out the candles) and Bronagh Mullan
"Strangely enough, it grows in popularity year on year. There was a period in the mid-1980s when I thought it was definitely losing some popularity, certainly as far as the British audience was concerned," he said.

"Then the penny suddenly dropped, and people realised it was post-modern irony at its most effective."

Wogan subscribes to the theory that certain countries will always suffer because of prejudice against them - and that includes the UK.

"It's always difficult for the UK to win because Europe perceives the UK as being arrogant and having a patronising attitude to the rest of Europe. The UK entry has to be outstanding to win."

The Eurovision Song Contest is on BBC One and BBC Radio Two from 2000 BST on Saturday.

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Internet Links

Eurovision Song Contest - BBC Online

Official Eurovision 1999 Website



The Eurovision Database

Selma - Iceland's entry

The Mullans - RTE Online Eurovision site

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