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What does it take to become a Eurovision host city?

30 July 2017 at 08:00 CEST
At the start of the first Semi-Final of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. Andres Putting
Please Note: This article was written in 2017, and the criteria for hosting the Eurovision Song Contest has changed since.

Last week it was announced that the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Lisbon however there were four other options in Portugal to choose from. Braga, Gondomar, Guimarães and Santa Maria da Feira were all possible choices. What does it take to become a Eurovision host city?

The work to host the next edition of the Eurovision Song Contest starts the minute a country wins. At the winners' press conference in Kyiv earlier this year Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, Jon Ola Sand, presented a document to representatives from Portugal's public broadcaster RTP. This paperwork set out the first steps to hosting the competition. The journey to Eurovision 2018 started at that very moment.

The first steps in the long and complicated process is the appointment of the core team and the selection of the Host City. "Choosing a host city is one of the most crucial decisions to take when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest," says Jon Ola Sand. "Everything has to be scrutinised, it is not only talking to the city once or twice, you need sit down and negotiate down to the finest detail," he added.

What are the basic requirements?

Please Note: This article was written in 2017, and the criteria for hosting the Eurovision Song Contest has changed since.

A Host City of the Eurovision Song Contest must meet certain criteria. The venue should accommodate around 10,000 spectators and the city should be within easy reach of an international airport. The location must also have ample hotel accommodation.

"You need a good international airport, a central hub to fly people in and out of the city, and a city that provides good infrastructure. You also need a suitable venue that can accommodate around 10.000 spectators," explained Jon Ola. "You also need a press centre for 1,500 journalists and good facilities there for the delegates. You also need good hotels, in different areas of the city in different price categories," he added.

In recent years Host City Bids have taken place in Denmark, Austria, Sweden and more recently, Ukraine. The challenge in 2017 was the fact that there were no ready venues in any of the candidate cities. "We spent a lot of time in Ukraine and had good discussions with the three shortlisted cities to find the optimal solution," said Jon Ola in an interview in late summer 2016. 

Against the odds 

Despite the challenges in finding a suitable Host City for the Eurovision Song Contest, some venues have hosted the competition against the odds. The choice of Millstreet in 1993, a small town in South West Ireland, with a population of just 1,500 people, was an ambitious endeavor for Irish broadcaster RTE. 

Millstreet boasted one of the largest equestrian auditoriums in the country, the Green Glens Arena. When the venue was announced, BBC reporter Nicholas Witchell quipped that the contest was to be held in a “cowshed”. He later apologised and would go on to be proved wrong after RTE staged a slick production. 

A clear sign of the importance that Ireland attached to the event was the appearance of Irish Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, who visited the arena during renovations. "You could not buy the space on television screens all around the world that you get from the Eurovision Song Contest. In the past we have found that RTE do a magnificent job in showing Ireland at its best," he said. 

Millstreet was transformed in 1993 and hosting the Eurovision Song Contest also saw improvements in the infrastructure of the town with the railway station being renovated and roads in the surrounding area underdoing significant repairs. "The atmosphere in Millstreet was electric," said 1993 host Fionnuala Sweeney, who spoke to last year. "The week leading up to the Saturday night broadcast was a whirlwind involving the performers, the crew, the press and the fans not to mention the people of Millstreet itself," she added.

Whilst the Eurovision Song Contest has grown massively since that time, the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest remains one of RTE's largest productions outside of Dublin. 

An exciting challenge but a huge opportunity

Whilst hosting the Eurovision Song Contest is a logistical and financial challege, it brings with it huge opportunities. "Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest gives great benefits for the hosting city. It creates a lot of attention around the city name which is spread all over the world. It gives the country and city the possibility to show what it can offer tourists," said Jon Ola Sand. 

Throughout the Host City Bid process the EBU and Host Broadcaster work closely and visit each of the candidate cities to inspect the venues and evaluate the standard of both hotels and infrastructure. Last week Host Broadcaster RTP announced that the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest would be held in Lisbon.

"The City presented an exemplary proposal, and we look forward to working together to make Portugal’s first ever Eurovision the most exciting one yet. We would like to congratulate RTP on their professional and detailed assessments of all the bids," added Jon Ola.

With just nine months to go until rehearsals for Eurovision 2018 begin, the race against the clock has started!