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Eurovision takes Belgrade to Europe, for a while

Belgrade - Apparently always in turmoil and bombed by NATO just eight years ago, this time Belgrade made global headlines for its hospitality and impeccable organization of the Eurovision Song Contest, Serbian newspapers said Sunday.

Dima Bilan triumphed and took Eurovision 2009 to Russia for the first time in its 53-year history.

Serbian Jelena Tomasevic came in sixth, but the competition was slipping into history as other impressions were being assessed.

'Musical centre of Europe,' 'Serbia's European glow,' 'Belgrade used the chance' and 'Majestic' are some of the headlines local newspapers put over reports of how Belgrade hosted the mammoth show, which brought together 43 nations over the past two weeks.

'Belgrade showed its new, winning spirit,' the mass-circulation Vecernje Novosti said.

'We waited many years to top the news, but not because of an ugly political situation,' the austere Politika said.

The Serbian capital overcame shortcomings such as scarce hotel accommodation and greedy cabbies, to secure a positive impression among the thousands of visitors who arrived for Eurovision, reports said.

'Eurovision fans enchanted with Belgrade' and 'Positive impressions for lasting memory,' newspapers said after interviewing visitors on the streets.

A crowd of nearly 10,000 people, mostly Serbs but also many foreigners, gathered downtown to watch the show on a huge video screen and cheered all participants, all without incident.

Just three months before, the same area was occupied by an angry mob which torched foreign embassies and pillaged amid a protest at the secession of the province of Kosovo, while advisories against travel to Serbia were issued in the West.

After two weeks of debating the sexiest performer, the most outrageous act or betting odds, the city of 2 million people returns to its own normalcy and the ongoing political wrangling whether it belongs to the West or East.

The winner of the tug-of-war, either the pro-Europeans or ultra- nationalists, is expected to set up the new government sometime next month.

The new government will also determine Serbia's course, either taking it closer to European Union membership, or leaving it standing at the doorstep of the West for a while longer.

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