Estonians conquer Eurovision

  • 2001-05-17
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - The Estonian song "Everybody" performed by the duo Tanel Padar and Dave Benton won the 46th Eurovision Song Contest held on May 12 in Copenhagen, Denmark, bringing the first ever Eurovision victory to the Baltic states.

The final results showed that it was really a one-song contest. But as the votes came in, the competition became a nail biting scramble as the Estonian singers fought off the Danish group Rollo and King, who would have achieved a similar glory to last year's Danish entry "Fly on the Wings of Love" by the Olsen Brothers, if Padar and Benton hadn't beaten them into second place.

Antique from Greece came third with "Die for You."

"I think for the first time in my life I will get really drunk tonight," Reuters quoted Benton as saying after the victory. Tanel Padar's first reaction to the victory was: "I love you, mom!"

Padar, 20, was a contest participant last year when he sang back-up for Estonian singer Ines.

The concept of choosing the best song at Eurovision is based on people from the participant country calling a special telephone number during the widely broadcast concert and giving from one to 12 points to the songs they like.

The Estonian song, written by Estonian composer Ivar Must and lyricist Maian Karmas especially for the contest, got the highest possible points from audiences in Holland, Lithuania, Latvia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Poland, Malta and Greece.

With 198 points, the Estonian song set a new record at Eurovision, beating the U.K.'s 1976 entry "Save All Your Kisses For Me" by Brotherhood of Man, which got 164 points out of a possible 204.

The only country that gave no points to "Everybody" was Portugal.

Estonia's neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania, ranked 19th and 13th, respectively. Latvia's hit "My Star" by Brainstorm won third place at last year's Eurovision, beating Ines who eventually finished fourth.

According to the rules of the contest, the countries in the top 15 have the right to compete next year. The rest are out of the game for two years.

Estonia, as the winning country, has the right to host the next Eurovision in May 2002, which must be organized by the national public television company. According to Aare Urm, the director of Estonia's national TV channel ETV, it would cost the country at least 50 million kroons ($2.85 million) to organize the event. The European Broadcasting Union will provide the other half of the funds necessary.

"This is not something the state should hold back on. It's a promotion opportunity you could never get for less than 50 million kroons," Urm said, adding that the money should be allocated from the state budget.

One of the possible venues could be the 10,000-seat Saku Ice Hall currently under construction in Tallinn.

ETV must confirm in written form the wish to organize the next Eurovision Song Contest within four weeks.

The day after the contest, a bleary-eyed Padar and Benton performed at a Mother's Day concert in Tallinn's Town Hall Square, where Prime Minister Mart Laar, Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois, Culture Minister Signe Kivi and the sponsors congratulated them once again.

Laar compared the winners to sportsmen who have raised the Estonian flag to the top once again.

Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the achievement of Padar and Benton is great indeed. "It shows Estonia has a real European multicultural society," he said, referring to Jamaican-born Benton, who is married to an Estonian.

Estonia has taken part in the contest seven times since 1994. Its previous highest placement was fourth last year with Ines' song "Once in a lifetime." Estonia has previously ranked fifth, sixth and eighth.

In comparison with last year, the participation of the Estonian audience declined by over 50 percent.

According to Tiiu Simm from ETV's public relations department, 20,855 votes were registered this year. "People started to call earlier, before the official voting began, and went on calling after it ended. But those calls were not registered," she said.

"Last year we registered 52,992 calls," said Simm. She said the decline could've possibly been caused by last year's strong opinion that Estonia could win.

"This year people had less optimism," she said.

The story on the online news portal got a record amount of comments, about 2,600 of them, on the news story about the Estonian victory.

Approximately 75,000 people voted for Eurovision songs in Latvia. In Lithuania this number barely exceeded 5,000.