DUESSELDORF, Germany The United Kingdom is hoping reunited boyband Blue will end a humiliating losing streak at the Eurovision Song Contest for the country that gave the world pop music.
After finishing in the bottom spot three times in the previous eight years, the UK is sending one of its most popular acts in the past decade into the battle on Saturday night.
Blue, reunited in 2009 after a four year break, had 40 number one singles across Europe and sold more than 13 million albums between 2001 and 2004.
"It's a great competition," said band member Lee Ryan at a news conference after the final rehearsal on Friday. "It's great fun. We could never have dreamed of a platform like this and for you guys to be interested in what we're doing.
"This competition brings Europe together," he said. "That's exactly why I got into music, bringing people together. It's amazing."
Much of continental Europe takes the annual song competition seriously -- it is watched by about 125 million people each year. But in Britain, which has not won it since 1997, the acts are often lampooned.
That may all change this year even if the level of interest still pales compared to other countries.
"This year, because Blue is here, the UK is taking equally seriously and that will hopefully be reflected in votes," said BBC commentator Graham Norton, sitting with the band at the news conference. "Because it's a credible pop band people do know and has loads of hits."
Simon Webbe said the whole city of Dusseldorf, the western city on the Rhine hosting this year's contest after Germany won last year for the first time in nearly three decades, was abuzz with Eurovision Song Contest fever.
"That atmosphere is everywhere," he said. "Going around Dusseldorf you feel the vibe and you really feel what Eurovision is all about. We know the Germans know how to put on a good show. Even for us, even though we've had 10 years experience, it still gets to us how amazing things are here."
(editing by Matthew Jones)