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Hosting Eurovision: A city in the spotlight

30 July 2016 at 12:00 CEST
The beautiful Stockholm City Hall during the Opening Ceremony of the Eurovision Song Contest 2016. EBU / Andres Putting
Earlier this week, Ukrainian public broadcaster NTU announced the shortlist of candidate cities to host the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. Out of six cities, Kyiv, Odessa and Dnipro were shortlisted and inspected by the contest's Executive Supervisor on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Jon Ola Sand.

Based on the inspection results, a number of additional recommendations were given to each potential host city, as well as additional time to elaborate their bids. “We really want to take the time it takes to come up with the right decision," Jon Ola Sand said. This means the announcement of the Host City of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest will be made in due course, and not on 1st of August as announced earlier.

While Kyiv, Odessa and Dnipro elaborate on their respective bids, looks back at the history of city bids for the Eurovision Song Contest.

A new chapter

As the credits roll at the end of the Eurovision Song Contest's Grand Final and the winner lifts that glass microphone trophy, millions of people at home witness the end of a unique annual musical battle. As one chapter in the contest's book comes to an end, a new one is starting behind the scenes, when a new host broadcaster starts to lay the foundation for the next contest. One of the most important decisions they are to take - one that is subject of speculation starting at the winner's press conference - is the choice of venue and host city.

Apart from a suitable venue to host one of the most complexe TV productions in the world, the choice of host city is crucial for a smooth organisation of the contest. With thousands of fans, journalists and delegates from all over the world, a well-connected international airport and the availability of a sufficient number of hotel rooms are equally important. As the contest grew in its size and scale, the importance of the choice of host city grew as well.

Surprises and challenges

41 different cities and towns have welcomed the Eurovision Song Contest over the past 61 years. With 6 events, Dublin holds the hosting record, closely followed by London, which hosted the contest 4 times. Not every year worked out as planned; in 1979, Israel's broadcaster IBA won on home ground, indicating they could not host the contest for the second time in a row. Dutch broadcaster NOS offered to host the 1980 contest, and did so in The Hague, the country's political capital. In 1991, Italian broadcaster RAI moved the contest from Sanremo to Rome, citing security reasons.

In 1982, the BBC surprised friends and enemies with its selection of Harrogate's conference centre as venue. Harrogate, a town of just 70,000 at the time, was largely unknown to the international audience. To change that, the opening of the contest featured a map of Europe, with translations of "Where is Harrogate?" popping up on screen in the languages of all participating countries.

In 1993, Irish broadcaster RTÉ surprised the Eurovision family by choosing Millstreet as host village for the contest. With a population of just 1,500 people it was the smallest place ever chosen to host the contest. However, the venue, a large indoor well- equipped equestrian centre was deemed more than suitable. It appeared that not everyone was as excited about RTÉ's choice; BBC news anchor Nicholas Witchell sparked controversy when saying on-air that the contest would be held "in a cowshed in Ireland." Witchell subsequently apologised.

The 'German model'

Host city selections in the early years of the 21st century were pretty straightforward. While Swedish broadcaster SVT explored a variety of options in 2000, Danish broadcaster DR didn't have much choice when signing up for the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen for the 2001 contest. The football stadium, the largest Eurovision venue to date, needed an additional roof to make it suitable to host the contest. The following contests in 2002 and 2003 in Tallinn and Riga respectively also didn't give host broadcasters much choice in terms of host city selection.

In that respect, the 2011 contest, hosted by German broadcaster NDR after Lena's victory in Oslo the year before, was different. Due to the long list of capable host cities and venues, NDR asked for cities to bid for the honour of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest. After several months, Düsseldorf emerged as winner from the race. Not only did the city provide an excellent venue and infrastructure, Düsseldorf also made a strong financial commitment to carry some of the costs of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest. 

The German model raised the standard for city bids in the years to come. After Baku, where a new venue had to be constructed to host the contest, 2013 host broadcaster SVT opened up for bids very shortly after winning the contest in 2012. Several cities demonstrated their interest and to many people's surprise, Malmö was awarded the right to host the contest, instead of Stockholm. The country's capital had to wait another three years for its turn, when it submitted the best proposal to host the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.

Return on investment

Hosting big events is often considered a great opportunity for a city. Event guests from all over the world spend their money on hotels, restaurants and shows, while the media exposure they receive over a period of several weeks is considered invaluable. Although the exact return on the city's investment is difficult to measure with precision, Malmö made an attempt back in 2013. According to a report commissioned by the city, the event generated tourism revenues of over 20 million euros, not including tickets to the shows. The value of media exposure was estimated at just over 100 million euros. Malmö and the surrounding region of Skåne invested 2.5 million euros in the organisation of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest.

One will shine

What the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest will bring economically for its host city remains to be seen. What is certain, is that having the circus in town will bring thousands of guests from around the world, some 1,500 journalists and a strong focus of European media for several weeks. Whether next year's contest moves to Kyiv, Odessa or Dnipro, one thing is fore sure - one city will get the chance to shine in the international spotlights.

Stay with us for updates on the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, national selection announcements, Eurovision Young Musicians on 3 September and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest on 20 November.