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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Gears Up for Eurovision Final

APNorway's Alexander Rybak reacting after the second semifinal of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest at Olimpiisky Sports Complex in Moscow early Friday.
Moscow is gearing up for the Eurovision Song Contest final on Saturday, which will pit 25 nations against each other in a festival of outrageous costumes, flag-waving patriotism and clunky lyrics.
The event threatens to be overshadowed by violence, however, as gay rights activists plan to hold an unsanctioned march in central Moscow earlier in the day.
The final is scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. Saturday at the Olimpiisky Sports Complex. The show will be hosted by comedian Ivan Urgant and pop singer Alsou, who was a Eurovision contestant for Russia in 2000.
Last year's winner, Dima Bilan, will perform with the circus show from Cirque du Soleil. Organizers also plan a satellite link with the International Space Station.
Thursday's second semifinal saw 10 more acts move on to the final, including the skimpily clad Ukrainian contestant, Svetlana Loboda, Greek singer Sakis Rouvas and Norway's baby-faced violinist Alexander Rybak. Ten finalists were selected in Tuesday's semifinal as well.
Russia, Germany, Britain, France and Spain have an automatic bye into the final.
Britain's entry, Jade Ewen, will be accompanied on the piano by composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. The German entry will feature burlesque star Dita von Teese.
Russia's contestant, Anastasia Prikhodko, hosted a crowded party at the Eurodom club Wednesday. She performed her song, "Mamo," as the audience knocked back vodka with traditional bread and salt.
Prikhodko's song sparked controversy in Russia because its lyrics are in Ukrainian as well as Russian.
"All the listeners will understand the word 'mama,' whatever their language," Prikhodko told The Moscow Times in a recent interview. "I would really like the audience at the contest to experience all the emotions that the heroine of this song goes through."
Her song was panned as a "dirge of a ballad" by The Guardian this week.
Norway, Greece and Turkey are considered favorites to win, despite accusations from some fans and delegations of block voting by Eastern Europeans.
Gay rights activists are expected to hold a protest at about noon Saturday in central Moscow. Organizers said they would release the details on their web site,
Gay rights activists on several occasions have been beaten by opponents and physically prevented by police from staging gay pride events.
One Eurovision contestant has vowed to boycott the final if there is violence at the march, which organizers have dubbed "Slavic Pride."
Gordon of De Toppers, the group representing The Netherlands, intends to attend the demonstration and will boycott the final if "there is extreme violence," the group's spokesman, Marco de Koning, said Thursday.
De Toppers performed in the second semifinal Thursday night and were not among the acts selected for Saturday's final.
Mayor Yury Luzhkov has called gay parades "satanic," and City Hall spokesman Sergei Tsoi told Interfax last week that there had "never been a gay parade in Moscow, and there won't be one."
Any unsanctioned protests during Eurovision will be dealt with "harshly," acting Moscow police chief Alexander Ivanov said Tuesday, Interfax reported.
A City Hall spokesman reached by telephone Thursday declined to confirm whether permission for the gay pride demonstration had been formally denied.
British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell flew to Moscow to attend the march and issued a statement Thursday calling for city authorities to hold talks with gay activists.
Tatchell attended the attempted gay pride march in Moscow in 2007 and was badly beaten and arrested.