Azerbaijani duo wins Eurovision contest

The pop duo Ell/Nikki, from Azerbaijan, has won the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest with their pop ballad Running Scared, ahead of finalists from 24 other countries.

A pop duo from Azerbaijan has won the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in which finalists from 25 countries took the stage Saturday night.

Nigar Jamal and Eldar Gasimov, who go by the name Ell/Nikki, earned the most points in Saturday night's grand finale in Düsseldorf, Germany for their classic pop ballad with a catchy refrain, Running Scared.

It was the first time that Azerbaijan has won the contest in the songfest's 56-year history.  It's a major victory for Azerbaijan, which has only competed in Eurovision since 2008. The win means that Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, will be next year's host.

Gasimov says he's "the happiest man in the world right now" after receiving the trophy from Germany's Lena Meyer-Landruth, who sought to defend her title. 

The Azerbaijan duo were followed by Raphael Gualazzi from Italy in second place with a jazzy number, Madness of Love and Sweden's Eric Saade who ended up third with Popular.  Last year's winner, Lena Meyer-Landrut of Germany, tried to defend her crown this year with Taken By A Stranger but only managed to make it to the No. 10 spot.

Italy's second-place position is a triumph of sorts since this year's appearance marks a first by the country since 1997.

Irish twins — John and Edward Grimes, performing under the name "Jedward" — were front-runners heading in with their upbeat song Lipstick but ended up in eighth place.

Voting is a 50/50 split between several judging panels and viewers from all the 43 countries participating.  Two semi-finals during the week resulted in the final round of 25 countries.

Established in 1956, Eurovision is the biggest television event in Europe, attracting more than 120 million viewers.

Previous winners have included Celine Dion in 1988, who represented Switzerland with Ne partez pas sans moi, and Swedish super-group ABBA in 1974 with Waterloo.

Ell/Nikki of Azerbaijan perform their love song Running Scared after winning the Eurovision Song Contest finale in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Saturday. (Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters)