Conchita Wurst kicks off 60th Eurovision Song Contest. – AFP pic, May 24, 2015.

Austrian bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, resplendent in a sparkly, backless purple outfit, floated onto the stage in Vienna Saturday to begin the 60th Eurovision Song Contest, Europe’s annual anything-goes pop fest.

The difference this year for the clash of the catchy, corny and camp watched by around 200 million people worldwide is that Australia – where Eurovision has long had a cult following – is taking part.

But whether hunky former “Australian Idol” champion Guy Sebastian can wow the millions watching at home and professional juries in each nation remains to be seen, with tough competition among the 27 acts.

The favourite – although the competition is notoriously difficult to predict – is chiseled Swede Mans Zelmerlow, hoping to repeat the magic of global superstar compatriots ABBA back in 1974.
A stiff challenge also comes from Russian Polina Gagarina with “A Million Voices”, a paean to peace that she hopes will silence the boos that Russia’s entry got last year after the annexation of Crimea.

If she wins, Eurovision will be in Russia in 2016 – a prospect not relished by Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who said Thursday the contest promoted values “repulsive to our soul and our culture”. – AFP

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