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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 19:05 GMT
Spanish pop show breaks the record
The "Pop Idol" equivalent has broken all viewing figures
The streets of Spanish towns and cities - normally buzzing with life - were strangely deserted for a few hours on Monday night.

But it was not the winter chill that was keeping Spaniards indoors. Not even the football.

It was Spain's equivalent of Pop Idol.

The contest has... become a social phenomenon of growing dimensions

Madrid daily ABC
Millions stayed at home to watch the grand final of blockbuster talent show Operacion Triunfo (Operation Victory).

At one point more than 15 million were glued to their screens - a record in Spanish broadcasting history.

For week after week, viewers had followed the trials and tribulations of 16 young hopefuls as they trained as professional crooners.

Monday night was the moment of truth. They sang songs - many in English - and the three most popular singers were chosen by a telephone vote.

At the climax of the three-hour programme, the winners were finally announced.

The crying went on all night
Rosa - a young hopeful from the southern region of Andalucia - was first to be crushed in the scrum of her fellow contestants.

Next it was the turn of David Bisbal, another Andalucian.

"Let me go and see my father," wept the third victor, David Bustamante from Cantabria in the north, before sprinting across the stage amid hysterical applause.

In his small home town of San Vicente de la Barquera, a huge shout rose up from the mass of fans gathered before a giant TV screen. Fireworks were let off, and the party went on all night.

Explosive mix

And the morning after the euphoria, photos of the winners were splashed across the front pages of all the national papers.

"The contest has exceeded its creators' most optimistic estimates and become a social phenomenon of growing dimensions," said an editorial in the Madrid daily ABC the next day.

One of the key factors in the show's success was the format, which the TV boasted was "an explosive mix of spectacle and competition, of entertainment and training".

Winner David Bisbal
David Bisbal was one of the winners
Other commentators were more philosophical.

"The intelligence of television has to lie in managing to entertain... through emulative approaches, through approaches which represent competition and feature ordinary people," mused sociologist Javier Elzo Imaz.

"Not everyone can be Claudia Schiffer," he added.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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