Organising Eurovision: choosing host city and venue

What’s this? A blog series on how different countries would organise Eurovision? Bring it on! Update: here’s Dr Eurovision on the costs involved in participating in and hosting Eurovision.

Eurosong.be must have time on their hands as they’re about to launch a Fantasy Eurovision series. They’ve contacted the national broadcasters in 30 countries and will be posting twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) for the next 15 weeks, looking at technical and financial issues as well as reviewing possible venues. First up tomorrow: Albania 2015.

My Dutch Flemish is a little shaky, but a combination of Google Translate and years of knocking copy into shape means I’m game to have a stab at rendering anything into English. Belgium may have only won the thing once, but the Flemish are known for their work ethic, so I’m expecting thorough and diligent research with no need for fact checking.

Here’s their first post, looking at the choice of host city and venue.

The organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest

Taken from De organisatie van het songfestival (1), 18 January.

Eurovision is much more than three TV shows. It’s a source of pride for the host country, a boost for the local economy and a business card for the national broadcaster. But even for a prosperous western European country such as Denmark the organisation of Eurovision is a huge task.

B&W Halls: a dilapidated shed

Copenhagen's B&W Halls

The withdrawal of Parken, the most obvious choice of venue, left Danish broadcaster DR with a problem. Eventually they came up with a surprising choice – no boxes in Herning (Boxen, the bookies’ and people’s choice, one of the largest arenas in Scandinavia and host of several recent Danish national finals), but instead the honour went to B&W Halls, part of a former shipyard on an (almost) island in Copenhagen harbour.

Democratic process

Normally the selection of the host city is a democratic process, with potential venues submitting their candidacy to  the organising broadcaster, who then evaluate their feasibility on the basis of objective criteria and nominate their choice, with the EBU giving final approval via the Reference Group.

This was the process for Copenhagen 2014, Malmö 2013, Düsseldorf 2011, Helsinki 2007 and Athens 2006, when in each case there were multiple candidates.

After the victory of Helena Paparizou in 2005 both Athens and Thessaloniki offered to organise the contest. In 2006 four cities (Espoo, Turku, Tampere and Helsinki) competed for the title of host city, while in 2010 23 German cities made initial inquiries. Following discussions with eight cities, four (Berlin, Hanover, Hamburg and Düsseldorf) submitted official bids. In 2012 Stockholm and Gothenburg were both in the running.

Last year, after Gigantium in Aalborg, MesseC in Fredericia and Parken in Copenhagen had thrown in the towel, DR somewhat surprisingly rejected Boxen in Herning, Faengslet in Horsens and the tent scenario in DR Byen in favour of B&W Halls.

Sometimes there is no choice

Not all countries have a variety of concert venues and a well developed hotel infrastructure, leading to a restricted choice from the outset.

Baku's Crystal HallIn 2011 the President of Azerbaijan (or his wife) took the plunge and decided to build a completely new arena, the Crystal Hall in Baku, the only real option for host city.

On 27 May 2009, just 10 days after the Norwegian victory in Moscow, NRK announced that the 2010 contest would take place in Oslo, the only city with sufficient hotel capacity and infrastructure.

Sometimes the choice is already made

After Russia’s victory in 2008 there was much speculation about the choice of host city. Valentina Matviyenko, the former mayor of St Petersburg, wanted to bring the contest to her city, but at the end of July Vladimir Putin (himself from St Pete’s) at the beginning of his stint as prime minister, announced that the 2009 contest would be held in the Olympic stadium in Moscow. No contest!

The selection of host city and venue for the 2005 contest in Ukraine was also primarily a political affair. Barely a week after Ruslana’s victory president Leonid Kuchma issued a decree appointing prime minister Yanukovych as chairman of the organising committee and instructing the city of Kiev and the national government to find the necessary funds for the organisation of the contest.

Almost went wrong

In the run up to the 2008  contest in Belgrade Kosovo declared its independence. Riots broke out in the Serbian capital, forcing the EBU  and Serbian broadcaster RTS to consider moving the contest. Greek broadcaster ERT offered to jump in as host broadcaster (ed: how ironic), but eventually the contest went off as planned in Belgrade.

Next up: some sour victories. And while we wait for Albania 2015 here’s Tom:

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