Pop acts tune up for Eurovision Song Contest final
(CNN) — Millions of people across Europe and beyond are gearing up to watch pop acts from 26 countries take to the stage Saturday night in the Eurovision Song Contest final.
Organizers expect more than 100 million people to tune in for the contest, hosted this year in the Swedish city of Malmo, since Sweden won in 2012.
After an opening ceremony in which all the performers will join together in a song, the first act on stage will be French singer Amandine Bourgeois.
But the odds are on a Scandinavian nation to take the title again, with Denmark and Norway the bookies' favorites.
Semi-finals were held this week to earn 20 of the places in the final.
Five nations -- France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom -- get an automatic entry to the final because they are the biggest financial contributors. The previous year's winner also automatically qualifies, as the host nation.
Eurovision is widely loved for its combination of over-the-top costumes, kitsch pop songs, sometimes questionable talent and international rivalries.
After all the finalists have performed live Saturday, the voting begins.
The 39 countries involved in the contest award a set of points from one to eight, then 10 and finally 12 for their favorite songs. They can't vote for themselves and they must announce the score in both English and French.
Television viewers can cast votes in their respective countries through telephone hotlines, which count for half the final tally. The remainder of the vote is cast by national expert juries, who based their scores on a dress rehearsal performance Friday night.
Many perceive the voting to be tactical, with neighbors or members of regional blocs, such as the former Soviet nations, appearing to base their scoring on geopolitical alliances rather than artistic merit.
Contestants can come from any member country of the European Broadcasting Union, which includes several non-European nations, including Israel, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Whoever wins, victory may not be welcomed by everyone back home since that nation bears the expense of hosting the following year's event -- a commitment that's more of a burden at a time of wide austerity in Europe.