Denmark's Emmelie de Forest has won this year's Eurovision song contest with her ethno-inspired flute and drum tune 'Only Teardrops'.
Juries and television viewers across Europe awarded the barefoot de Forest for the catchy love song that is driven by her deep vocals.
Farid Mammadov of Azerbaijan finished second with the song 'Hold Me', ahead of Ukraine's Zlata Ognevich with 'Gravity' in third place. Two semifinals this week whittled down the contestants from 40 to 26.
Millions of viewers worldwide tuned in to watch weird and wonderful acts battle to win the contest, as flag bearers entered on stage to a special hymn by pop icon ABBA's song-writing duo.
"Welcome to Sweden and my hometown Malmo," said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Paris Saint-Germain striker and Sweden star, in a video clip opening the event on Saturday.
Hostess Petre Mede was greeted by an audience of 11,000 in an arena in the third largest city of Sweden, the homeland of disco greats and 1974 Eurovision winners ABBA.
ABBA's Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus penned the special Eurovision anthem for this year with Swedish DJ and producer Avicii.
Singers from 26 countries took to the stage and an estimated 120 million viewers watched the kitsch but much-loved pan-European contest.
Sanjay Jiandani from the esctoday.com told Al Jazeera that the Eurovision-dedicated entertainment website was running a poll ahead of the winner being announced.
|Finland's Krista Siegfrids sang gay marriage anthem Marry Me [Reuters]
He said the ethno-inspired flute and drum tune Only Teardrops by Emmelie De Forest of Denmark had been leading by a landslide.
Denmark had also been the bookmakers' favourite to win this year's extravaganza, which also featured a bizarre opera pop number from Romania and an Armenian rock song written by a guitarist from heavy metal band Black Sabbath.
Before the results were announced, De Forest said: "I think we have a really good song that can take us far, but let's see, anything can happen."
Europe's cultural differences have come to the fore this year after show rehearsals in socially liberal Sweden showed not one but two gay kisses.
Turkish observers said that might have been the reason for public broadcaster TRT dropping the event this week.
TRT cited low ratings as the reason for the cancellation because Turkey did not field a Eurovision candidate this year.
Two male Swedish folk dancers were seen kissing each other as part of an intermission act during rehearsals on Friday.
Finland's Krista Siegfrids did the same with one of her female dancers when singing gay marriage anthem Marry Me.
"The fact is that Finland is the only country in the Nordic countries where gay marriage is not allowed and I think that's wrong," Siegfrids said.
"It's 2013 now and ... I can kiss anyone I want to. It shouldn't be a problem.''
Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister, who was in Malmo to watch the competition on Saturday, said that Eurovision was a unique event that united Europe.
"We see the old Yugoslavia, now independent states, after a decade of war they always vote for each other in Eurovision," Bildt said. "That I think is fun."
This year's competition sees the return to the international stage of two seasoned European stars.
Total Eclipse of the Heart' singer Bonnie Tyler is representing Britain with Believe In Me' while Anouk, whose song Nobody's Wife' was a big hit in Europe in the 1990s, is singing the song Birds''for The Netherlands.
Sweden has scaled back costs for the event this year to $23mn, a large drop from last year's lavish competition hosted by oil-rich Azerbaijan in its capital, Baku, which cost $1bn.
"We have attempted to host Eurovision with less money to show that it is possible to do this without it being too painful for the host country,'' Jan-Erik Westman, a spokesman of host broadcaster SVT, said._
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies