The ambition to win was high in Greece, and it was Helena Paparizou who brought the Eurovision Song Contest to Athens with My Number One. The Greeks had just successfully hosted the 2004 Olympic Games, and thus venues, accommodations and infrastructure were ready to host another large event. The Olympic Indoor Arena, part of Athens' Olympic complex, hosted the Eurovision Song Contest on the 18th and 20th of May, 2006.
Compared to 2005, organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest went relatively smooth this year. The Greeks quickly compiled a skilled team of producers and event managers to get ready for the two live shows.
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The theme of the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest was Feel The Rhythm, the generic logo was accompanied by two graphic elements; a styled version of the ancient Phaistos disk and a pattern referred to as dancing scores. The design work was done by the Athens-based company Karamela, which also had taken care of the visual identity of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Former Greek Head of Delegation Fotini Yannoulatou was the Executive Producer, while Volker Weicher from Germany was in charge of multi-camera directing. The shows were hosted by the American-Greek actress and television presenter, Maria Menounos, and former Greek Eurovision Song Contest participant, Sakis Rouvas (2004). Opening and interval acts were performed by the hosts, as well as Helena Paparizou and Foteini Darra.
The stage design was significantly different from trends set in previous years. The set consisted of a circular stage, surrounded by so called moving wings. The set visualized an ancient Greek theatre setting.
Svante Stockselius supervised the contest on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union for the third time.
23 nations were represented in the Semi-Final, 14 were already qualified for the Final directly, bringing the total number of contestants to 37. Ten slots for the Final were at stake during the Semi-Final, in which Armenia debuted.
Host Country Greece, but also Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sweden and Romania were tipped to win this year's Eurovision Song Contest, but it was the Finnish monster band Lordi that took the grand prix home to Helsinki. The monsters rocked the Olympic Indoor Arena with Hard Rock Hallelujah and despite their long-lasting professional career, the group was widely considered as a "joke". The song was the only entry directed by a computer, as it would take too many manual cuts in a short time.
Sweden sent the 1991 Eurovision Song Contest winner Carola with Invincible, but she didn't manage to do that trick again. Lithuania sparked controversy with their entry We Are The Winners (of Eurovision), already claiming victory before participation. The group LT United didn't manage to do exactly that, but the winning group Lordi did start their press conference right after the Final with the magical first words of the Lithuanian entry.
The 2006 Eurovision Song Contest also saw the 1,000th song performed in the competition. Brian Kennedy from Ireland had the honour, performing Every Song Is A Cry For Love. Was that a reference to the previous 999 ones?
Dutch spokesperson, Paul de Leeuw, sparked controversy, giving his (fake) mobile number to presenter Sakis Rouvas during the Dutch results, and slowing down proceedings. Constantinos Christoforou (who also represented Cyprus in 1996, 2002 and 2005) made a politically sensitive statement when saluting from "Nicosia, the last divided capital in Europe".
Serbia & Montenegro withdrew from the contest due to a scandal in the selection process, which has caused tensions between the Serbian broadcaster, RTS, and the Montenegran broadcaster, RTCG. Serbia & Montenegro did retain voting rights for the contest. During the announcement of their votes, spokesperson Jovana Janković said: "So, as you know, we don't have a song for you this year, but we promise that next year we will give you the best one." Her promise was fulfilled when Marija Šerifović of Serbia won the contest the following year. Janković would also host the 2008 contest.
The 2006 Eurovision Song Contest did not see considerable changes compared to the 2005 running.
Later today, Eurovision.tv will look back at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Helsinki.