Fans gathered in Malmo have many tips for Eurovision glory but Denmark, Norwayand Ukraine are the bookmakers' favourites to win the Eurovision Song Contest.
MALMO, SWEDEN (MAY 18, 2013)(REUTERS) - After months of rehearsals, country qualifiers and two semi-finals it is finally time for the final of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday (May 18) which promises plenty of pop, kitsch and barefoot ballads
Bare-chested Irish drummers, a Ukrainian giant and a much-discussed lesbian kiss will be on display at the final later in the day when 26 countries will compete for the jewel in the crown of European pop
Denmark's 20-year-old Emmelie De Forest looks set to steal the show with bookmakers putting her as a clear favourite, trailed by Norway, Ukraine, Russiaand Azerbaijan.
Her song - "Only Teardrops" - could keep the show in the Nordics for a second year running, moving it just across a bridge that separates Sweden and Denmark after Loreen won last year's contest for Sweden with dance track "Euphoria".
But Dirk Mobus, who arrived in Malmo from Frankfurt earlier in the morning, hoped the Dutch entry Anouk with her song "Birds" would win.
"Well, my personal favourite is the Netherlands, I think Anouk has a very special song. It's quite different from what they did before but I guess the big favourites are still Denmark, Norway and probably Ukraine. Germany's going to end up top five I guess," he said.
For the first time in many years, all Nordic countries have qualified for the final.
Swedish fans Mikael Svensson and Linda Karlsson said they liked Iceland's song "Eg A Lif" (I am alive), sung by Eythor Ingi, the best.
"We put our hopes on our Nordic neighbours Denmark and Iceland," Karlsson said. Yes, Iceland is the one that stands out a bit because it's a ballad so Iceland could be something. But of course we hope Sweden will win, but it's difficult to win two years in a row," Svensson added.
The members of Swiss group Takasa were able to enjoy the sunshine and took a stroll through the centre. As they did not make it trough to the final, they did not have to be at the rehearsals.
Takasa singer Christoph Jakob said he would be rooting for Malta.
"Today in the morning I always had the song from Georgia in my mind, it was like "waterfall". Perhaps it was because of the shower, I'm not sure. I really don't know. I think it's between Georgia, Sweden, the Finnish have a quite good song too. But from my heart it will be Malta," he said.
Daniel Nyberg from Sweden said he hoped Sweden's Robin would win with the song "You" but thought Germany's Cascada with "Glorious" stood a better chance.
"Of course I hope Sweden will win. But I believe more in Germany's song," he said.
Fans Katarina Bekken and Ulrika Berntson had many favourites among the 26 songs.
"I like many songs. Finland's makes me happy, Denmark's is ok, and Norway I like too. It's nice that all the Nordic countries are competing. Belgium, Ireland and thenSweden of course," Berntson said. "Yes, Belgium and Ireland and Sweden,Sweden is good," Bekken added but said she hoped Norway would win.
The song contest draws fans from all over Europe to see the competition live and also a huge television audience but fan David Sherrit from Aberdeen in Scotlandsaid it wasn't necessarily because of the quality of the music.
"It's the festival feel, the fun, the unity, everyone's out to have a bit of fun. The music is quite awful but we really come here because it's great fun and you can have a laugh at yourself and each other," he said.
Sherrit said he hoped Britain or Denmark would win.
But Britain, which has not won since 1997 and finished second from last in 2012 with septuagenarian crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, looks unlikely to buck its losing streak this year.
Ladbrokes says Britain's entry, Bonnie Tyler - famed for "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the 1980s - is entering the contest with the weakest odds of any British contender in a decade.
Jose Franca from Portugal said he would support Tyler because he lives in Britain, but that his personal favourite was Belgium's "Love Kills" performed by Roberto Bellarosa.
"I'm supporting team Bonnie (Tyler) from the UK because I live in the UK, but I also like Norway, sorry Denmark this year and of course I'll be rooting for Sweden, but I think Belgium is my favourite this year. It's a cool song, it's new, they haven't been in it for a while. It's funky, it's great, I think it's going to be fantastic," he said.
Ireland is represented by Ryan Dolan with the song "Only Love Survives".
On Saturday morning, his family and parish priest had a look at the centre ofMalmo, with Dolan's mother and sisters wearing Team Dolan t-shirts.
Pastor Declan Boland said he had seen Dolan in the morning and that he was feeling optimistic.
"His spirits are buoyant. I saw him this morning before he went off to the auditorium and he's in positive moods. Tired and slightly nervous but very optimistic and very hopeful. Chances of wining? He's in there with a fighting chance. The standard is very good this year and there are many good songs, but he's up there with the best of them and we're hoping that with the luck of the Irish, he'll land with the prize. We're very optimistic. Very optimistic indeed," Dolan said.
This evening, highlights will undoubtedly include a 2.4 metre (7 feet 8 inches) tall Ukrainian who carries singer Zlata Ognevich onto the stage, representing her inner strength, and Eurovision's first lesbian kiss featured in Finland's "Marry Me", which has drawn media controversy.
Eurovision was started in the 1950s with the aim of uniting Europe after World War II. Today, it has an audience of 125 million - more than the Super Bowl in the United States - and has served as a launching pad for the likes of ABBA, Julio Iglesias andCeline Dion.
To promote talent over politically and geographically motivated block voting, professional judges now account for 50 percent of a performer's score. The other half comes from telephone and SMS votes received for each contestant, with fans unable to vote for their own country's entry.
After two semi-finals held this week, 20 countries moved to Saturday's final while Britain, Italy, Spain, France and Germany got free passes as they are the biggest contributors to Europe's broadcasting union. Host Sweden also automatically qualified.