By Michael Osborn
BBC News entertainment reporter in Kiev
Witnessing the 50th Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev's
Sports Palace was a strange mixture of excitement,
camaraderie and political division.
The vast arena was filled to the brim with both
seasoned fans and Ukrainians enjoying the musical
spectacle on home soil for the first time.
Despite partisan flag-waving, all the acts got a warm reception
While the flag-waving was distinctly partisan, there
was a palpable sense of harmony in the arena.
I spent the long event next to a Ukrainian, who said
she knew nothing of the contest and simply came to
enjoy the show.
Nearby was a party of Irish fans, who came to be
entertained and were not disheartened by their
country's failure to qualify for the final.
As the slick and colourful show wore on, we exchanged
notes on which songs we favoured, clapping to some and
standing up to dance for others.
Every one of the 24 hopefuls were greeted with a
rapturous reception as they attempted the tricky task
of persuading voters across Europe that they had the
Maltese balladeer Chiara struck the right note with
her soaring voice - sending a collective tingle down
the spine of the vast crowd.
But it seemed there were no performances which were
unengaging, each with their own beguiling charm.
The Eurovision experience took a dramatic shift when
the music stopped and it was time for the lengthy and
highly controversial votes to come rolling in.
Old and young had a great night out
Some people began to file out of the arena, convinced
the show was over, and the crowd fell into an almost
reverential hush as countries delivered their
intriguing verdicts one by one.
This year's voting patterns suggested that Eurovision
unites Europe less than ever.
The Scandinavians stuck together, while the mighty
Balkan block vote proved more powerful than ever.
The audience expressed their distaste at certain
decisions, such as when Greece gave Cyprus their
perennial douze points.
Turkey, however, caused the auditorium to erupt when
they presented their old adversary Greece with full
But another Eurovision club we hear remarkably little
about was on good form this year.
Albania were way out of running, but they still entertained
The UK, Malta and Cyprus exchanged goodwill points,
while Ireland's eight points to its nearest neighbour
saved singer Javine from nul points shame.
As the contest drew to a close with a convincing
victory for Greece, seasoned Eurovision pundits were
suggesting that it is time for the biggest
contributors to the contest to pull out.
Spain, the UK, France and Germany were sat glumly at
the foot of the table as Ukrainian President Viktor
Yushchenko handed Helena Paparizou her prize.
The appearance of Ukraine's head of state put the
whole contest into perspective.
The voting temporarily paled into insignificance when
the event closed on a exuberant note of celebration.