STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – Hundreds of elated fans welcomed Eurovision Song Contest winner Mans Zelmerlow upon his return Sunday to Sweden, a mini-superpower in the world of pop music and six-time champion of the glitzy song fest.
Sleep-deprived and smiling, the 28-year-old singer-TV host arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport draped in a Swedish flag and waving the Eurovision trophy.
“I’ve longed for this moment for 10 years, and now here it is,” said Zelmerlow, who won the contest Saturday in Vienna with the thumping club anthem “Heroes.”
With two victories and two third places in the last five years, Sweden seems to have cracked the code of the competition, where voters across Europe pick the winner among entries representing various musical styles and traditions.
Five other entries in this year’s contest had Swedish songwriters or choreographers, including runner-up Russia. In 2011, Azerbaijan won the competition with a song written by Swedes.
“Among Swedes (Eurovision) is the biggest thing next to the World Cup,” Swedish radio host Tara Moshizi told national broadcaster SVT.
The only country with more Eurovision wins is Ireland, with seven.
Part of Sweden’s Eurovision success can be traced to its long record of making pop music with a mass appeal worldwide.
ABBA — which won Sweden’s first Eurovision title in 1974 — Roxette, Ace of Base, the Cardigans, Robyn and the Swedish House Mafia are just some of the country’s chart-topping exports.
In addition, Swedish songwriters and producers have helped shape the sound of international stars like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Katie Perry and Lady Gaga.
However, winning Eurovision doesn’t necessarily lead to sustained international stardom. Many winners are one-hit wonders who fail to break out of the Eurovision bubble — exceptions include ABBA and Celine Dion, the Canadian who competed and won for Switzerland in 1988.
Zelmerlow, who became known to Swedes in TV talent shows a decade ago, resisted making bold predictions about what his euro-victory would mean for his career, though “Heroes” already is climbing charts around the world.
“You never know what Eurovision can do,” he said. “But I hope that it opens some doors.”