SWEDEN is quickly catching up to Ireland as Eurovision’s most awarded nation after Måns Zelmerlöw won the Scandinavian nation’s sixth competition title on Sunday in Vienna, Austria.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary and broadcasting to over 200 million people across Europe and around the world, Eurovision took a marked departure from the glitz, glitter and camp the contest has become renowned (and expected) for.

This year’s competition was dominated by ballads with few dance and upbeat numbers making their presence felt, particularly the RnB-inspired effort from Australia’s Guy Sebastian and surprise hit and  seemingly gay anthem, Beauty Never Lies from Serbia’s Bojana Stamenov.

While the grand final night was dominated by two power ballads courtesy of Russia and Italy, they were ultimately pipped at the post by Zelmerlöw’s Heroes (scroll down to watch his winning performance).

Thanks to Zelmerlöw, Sweden is now one title away from tying with Ireland, which has one the contest a record seven times.

“[Winning] was absolutely amazing. I didn’t hear it when they first said it,” Zelmerlöw said at press conference after winning.

“I thought Russia or Italy would win it. But then I did it, and I was so happy. My feelings are now all over the place. I am so proud, so excited, so full of joy.”

The home to this year’s contest, the Wien Stadthalle, was awash with rainbow pride flags as LGBTI fans took an almost instant shine to Stamenov and her reaffirming dance anthem that was perceived as championing gay rights (amongst others) — a subject matter seen as unlikely coming from the socially-conservative Serbia.

LGBTI fans of Eurovision for the most part welcomed Zelmerlöw’s victory, despite the singer once referring to homosexuality as an “abnormality” and men sleeping together as not being “equally normal” on a Swedish cooking show in 2014.

Zelmerlöw has since apologised for this remarks and turned his attention towards working with and helping Swedish LGBTI groups.

“I want to apologise to all who take offence,” Zelmerlöw said.

“I believe and hope that the vast majority know that I respect differences and all forms of love.”

Sweden's Måns Zelmerlöw has apologised for past homophobic comments and has said he will work with LGBTI groups in Sweden. (PHOTO: David Alexander; Star Observer)

Måns Zelmerlöw (pictured here during a Eurovision red carpet event before the semi-finals) has apologised for past homophobic comments and has said he will work with LGBTI groups in Sweden. (PHOTO: David Alexander; Star Observer)

In remarks made on stage after he was handed the Eurovision trophy by last year’s winner Conchita Wurst, Zelmerlöw said that anyone, regardless of who they love, “are all heroes”.

“I’m so extremely happy. I want to thank all of you for voting and supporting me,” he said.

“I just want to say that we are all heroes, no matter who we love, who we are, or what we believe in. We are all heroes.”

Zelmerlöw trailed another competition favourite, Polina Gagarina from Russia for some time as results of national TV and jury votes came in from all 40 countries.

Similar to Russia’s performance in semi-final two, pride flags flew high and numerous during Gagarina’s song A Million Voices. Following her semi-final victory, she was faced with a question on the treatment of LGBTI people in Russia in a press conference.

When Russia was announced as coming first in the running tally of votes, boos were heard around the Stadhalle. The crowd’s response prompted one of the night’s hosts to plead with the audience to respect the artists “no matter who governs” their country.

As Sweden started to slowly pull away from Russia, the jubilation of the crowd became evident as chants of “Sweden, Sweden” anticipated the announcement of several “douze points” (12 points) being awarded to the country.

Wildcard entrant Australia fared well in the final results, coming in fifth behind Belgium with 196 points. To many Australian fans’ surprise, countries that were speculated to award Guy Sebastian with 12 points — including Greece, Italy, Ireland, the UK and Denmark — failed to deliver.

Australia scored constantly with several 8s and 10s, but the sought-after “douze points” came in only from Sweden and Austria.

Despite stipulating that Australia would have to win to return to Eurovision in 2016, a return is still a hot topic of conversation. SBS reported the highest ratings the network has ever seen for its Eurovision broadcast, and the European Broadcasting Union has reportedly been overwhelmed by Australia’s enthusiasm and effort this year.

Watch Måns Zelmerlöw’s winning Eurovision performance of Heroes:

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