There are just 100 days to go until the Grand Final of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. Earlier this week the Semi-Final Allocation Draw and Host City Insignia Exchange took place in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. The events are a key milestone in the organisation of the forthcoming competition and whilst the participating countries announce their respective entries for 2017, all eyes will be on Kyiv as it hosts the competition for the second time.
Organising the Eurovision Song Contest is a mammoth challenge for any Host Broadcaster, arguably even more so in Ukraine as the preparations have also taken place against a backdrop of wide-ranging reforms in Ukraine. With just 100 days to go until the Grand Final, all stakeholders must work together around the clock to get ready for one of the biggest television programmes in the world.
In reality there are actually less than 100 days to prepare. Kyiv and Host Broadcaster UA:PBC need to have everything in place ahead of the delegations arriving and the start of rehearsals at the end of April. Earlier this week we gave you a sneak peek of the stage design for 2017 and in the coming weeks the team will take up residence inside the International Exhibition Centre where the construction of the stage will begin.
Over the coming weeks the core team will work with multiple stakeholders from Ukraine and abroad on areas ranging from lighting, seating plans and ticket sales to the design and layout of the press centre. The level of planning is so precise that even the amount of plug sockets for press and fans has to be factored in.
Accreditation for press and fans will open on Monday 6th February, with more details due in the coming days. Ticket sales are also due to begin shortly.
In March the Reference Group, the governing body of the Eurovision Song Contest, will meet again in Kyiv to make any final decisions about the event. The Head of Delegation meeting will take place in the days following. For this two-day event, each participating broadcaster sends a Head of Delegation to the host city, where the Host Broadcaster, the EBU and their partners brief them on what the three shows will roughly look like.
Delegations will be given information about the backstage facilities, the press centre, transportation, security and other important aspects of the organisation. The venues for the Eurovision Village, EuroClub and any other locations of interest are also confirmed by this time. The Head of Delegation meeting is the final opportunity for delegations to secure their hotel rooms. More than 1,000 are in use during the event weeks for delegations alone.
The Head of Delegation meeting coincides with the deadline for formally submitting entries to the competition. Delegations provide instructions to the Host Broadcaster on how to stage their entries. The so-called 'look and feel' for each act is crucial in conveying the essential messages of the songs.
With just six weeks between the hand-in of all entries and the first on-stage rehearsals with the contestants, the production team has around 40 days to prepare lighting, LED content and camera work based on ideas and requests from the participants. This averages to one day per delegation, on top of which there is much communication and feedback between the production team and participating broadcasters. This is before the event weeks have even begun!
As the contest comes closer, teams regularly work in shifts, working on improvements day and night. Two weeks before the Grand Final, the entire Eurovision Song Contest organisation shifts up a gear. Delegations from 43 countries, over 1,500 journalists and thousands of fans will descend on Kyiv at the end of April for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.
The event weeks consists of rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals. Each act has two rehearsal slots and although these give the contestants a valuable opportunity to perfect their performance, these rehearsals are mainly intended to make sure the stage performance, light, sound and camera work are all synchronised. Three dress rehearsals also take place before the live broadcasts.
The importance of these rehearsals is well-known to Eurovision insiders, but not necessarily for newcomers. Many years ago, a delegation representing a country that participated for the first time upset the producers by not showing up for their first rehearsal. When contacted by the EBU, the respective head of the delegation replied: "We don’t need rehearsals. We’ve already rehearsed at home!" Needless to say they were summoned to make their way to the venue immediately.
By the time the Grand Final approaches, the participating artists will have rehearsed on the Eurovision stage dozens of times however there is only one that gets to perform at the end of the show, the winner. The process of preparing for the next contest starts at that very moment and another chapter in the story of the Eurovision Song Contest begins.