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Looking back: How the Opening Ceremony became a Eurovision tradition

10 May 2020 at 12:02 CEST
Orange Carpet 2019 Thomas Hanses
Had things been as they should have been, artists representing 41 countries would have walked the Opening Ceremony carpet today at Rotterdam's iconic Cruise Terminal, right next to the famous Erasmus Bridge. But things turned out differently, and rather than being sad today, we hope to cheer you (and ourselves, in all honesty) up by looking back at this great tradition that started in 2009.

The tradition of even having an official Opening Ceremony of the Eurovision Song Contest, with all competing artists arriving on the red carpet, started in Moscow back in 2009. Until then, the mayor of the Host City would welcome all participating delegations in a reception, often held at a city hall, but it wasn't quite the media event it became over the last decade.

Since that modest red carpet in Moscow, just over a decade ago, the Opening Ceremony evolved into a glamour highlight for which contestants are going the extra mile. And we are not just referring to the often extravagant costumes, but also quite literally the length of the carpet, meant to facilitate enough space for hundreds press, bloggers, vloggers and fans from Europe and beyond.

Check out this gallery below including pictures from Opening Ceremonies from the past years. You might even spot a special guest who travelled to Lisbon:

The Opening Ceremony: How does it work?

All artists, and special guests, are welcomed by, usually, the hosts of the contest, after which they'll make a grand entrée in front of world's media, Eurovision fans and curious host city citizens.

At a glamourous event like this, people traditionally walk a red carpet. At the Eurovision Song Contest's Opening Ceremony we have seen carpets in many colours: In 2010, the carpet was pink and in 2018 it was blue, fitting the theme of the contest that year. In 2019, the carpet was orange, a subtle tribute to that year's Presenting Partner, MyHeritage. Who knows what the colour will be in the years to come? We can only guess.

Check out our video from the Lisbon 2018 blue carpet, which took place by Lisbon's riverside next to MAAT, the Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia. This carpet was the longest to date in the history of Eurovision:

After the artists have made their way through and talked to hundreds of journalists and fans, it's usually time for a bite and a drink to wind down and slowly start preparing for show week.

Where does it take place?

Back in 2016, the Opening Ceremony took place at Stockholm's City Hall, with the red carpet in front of it. Artists were taken from the Red Carpet event to Stockholm's City Hall for a reception and were welcomed by the Mayor of Stockholm Karin Wanngård. Inside, they were treated with performances from previous Swedish Eurovision Song Contest winners Måns Zelmerlöw, Carola, Charlotte Perrelli, Loreen and Richard Herrey (who performed solo). ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus gave a speech in which he said that the Eurovision Song Contest is a force for good in the world, before Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand declared the show week of the Eurovision Song Contest officially open.

The Opening Ceremony in 2016 in Stockholm EBU

Earlier that day the Official Flag Ceremony took place where the flags of the 42 participating countries were raised outside the EuroClub by soldiers from the Swedish Life Guards, one of the oldest regiments in the world. Delegates and Ambassadors were treated to live music performed by the band, including a rendition of Sweden's most recent Eurovision Song Contest winners, Heroes and Euphoria.

The Official Flag Ceremony in 2016 Stijn Smulders / EBU

In 2017, the red carpet was located in front of Kyiv's Mariynsky Palace. 42 acts walked across the 265-meter long carpet on that beautiful day in May 2017. It was the longest carpet to date if it wasn't for Lisbon taking over the record one year later.

Located in front of Kyiv's Mariyinsky Palace, the 2017 Red Carpet was the longest to that date. Andres Putting / EBU

In 2019, the orange carpet was rolled out at the Habima Square in Tel Aviv.

The Orange Carpet of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv. Andres Putting / EBU

Special guests

Not only the participating artists walk the carpet, the Opening Ceremony also features some special acts or guests, like in Kyiv when dancers skipped over the red carpet holding plastic balls which featured the colours and patterns of the logo that year.

The theme artwork of 2017 was based on a traditional Ukrainian bead necklace known as Namysto. More than just a piece of jewellery, Namysto is a protective amulet and a symbol of beauty and health. It is made up of many different beads, each with its own design and celebrates both diversity and individuality.

Red carpet Kyiv 2017 Andres Putting / EBU

Eleni Foureira, who took second place in 2018 in Lisbon and has had huge success with her Eurovision entry Fuego, strutted down the carpet in 2019, as she performed in the Grand Final interval act along with Verka Serduchka, another special guest at this glamorous event.

Just days before handing over the Eurovision crown to a new winner, Israel's Netta walked the orange carpet in Tel Aviv a year ago in a more than spectacular costume.

We would have loved to report from another amazing Opening Ceremony today, coming live from Rotterdam, but it wasn't meant to be. Nevertheless, we are getting ready for three shows to come to your screens in the upcoming week. On Tuesday 12 May and Thursday 14, we will air Eurovision Song Celebration on YouTube and on Saturday 16 May, we will see Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light coming live from the Dutch media capital Hilversum.

What was your favourite Opening Ceremony moment from the past years? Let us know in the comments!