So what infrastructure does a city need to host Eurovision?

The Eurovision venue in Lisbon. Image: Adridan Bradley.

Eurovision is the largest entertainment show in the world. More than 200m viewers around the world watch the sublime to the ridiculous and the best and worst music that Europe (oh, and Australia) has to offer.

But what about the host city? What does it take put on the biggest Eurovision party there is?

Some 50,000 tourists will descend on your city from all over the world. You’ll put on 12 live shows, plus plenty of rehearsals – and need to schmooze about 1,500 journalists and bloggers. And that’s not counting all the delegations. 

And the kicker – you have no idea if you’re going to be hosting it until around midnight on the night of the final of the previous year. Imagine having to put on the world cup, with less than a year’s notice – and you never even bid in the first place.  And it’s all down to the host broadcaster, who may never have put on an event at this scale.

So, what do you need?

1. A venue

This is the most important part – but sometimes the hardest. You need an arena that can hold a giant stage, up to 15,000 fans, commentators from up to 50 countries – and a massive camera and sound system. Plus it’s going to need to be empty for about a month before the tournament.

If you don’t have anything that fits the bill, you could do what Azerbaijan did and just build a brand new one, or do what Denmark did and stick it in an empty warehouse. If Cyprus does win tonight, it’s thought that it’ll offer to just stick a roof on a football stadium.

Then it’s got to be able to cope with selling thousands of tickets – when demand will massively outstrip supply. This was another area where Kiev fell flat. The local agency just couldn’t cope with demand: it became luck of the draw, if the website would work for you.

Portugal’s ticket system this year was better – but it used a queueing system that was easy to bypass. The result was thousands of unhappy fans with access to Twitter – and a chance to lose some of that hard earned good PR for your city.

2. A press centre

The press centre in Lisbon. Image: Adrian Bradley.

A venue is useless if the 1,500 journalists can’t work, mingle with the acts, and fight over the best PR tat. In Lisbon, the arena is on the site of the EXPO World Fair 1998 – so they had a ready-made home. But yours has to be big, and come with a working area, press conference hall, interview rooms, radio studios, and ideally somewhere to eat.

3. Hotel rooms

Some 50,000 tourists come to Eurovision – do you have somewhere to put them? Can you build it in a year? The official line form the European Broadcast Union (EBU) is that every entrant to Eurovision could host it, but could Moldova really find enough space in Chisinau for everyone? It’s a tough ask. Plus hotelliers might rub their hands with glee at the opportunity to put up prices – but that doesn’t go down well with the EBU, so you’ve got to be able to keep a firm grip on the industry.


4. Flights

How’s everyone going to get there? One of the cities that wanted to host Ukraine’s Eurovision last year was Odessa – a lovely seaside resort that sadly has no direct flights from most of Europe.

5. A ‘Euroclub’

When you’ve got 1,500 journalists, most of whom are Eurovision fans, they expect to party. The contest hosts probably the most exclusive gay club in Europe over two weeks, playing Eurovision hits all the time.

In some cities, only delegations and press are allowed in. But recently they started extending that to fans as well. In Kiev, they had a huge Euroclub that everyone could buy a wristband for.

So with expectations set high, Lisbon brought them back down to earth with a tiny venue. That forced the fan clubs to set up their own club, which itself was too small; 1,600 wristbands sold out in a few minutes. Any host city needs to seriously think about where they’re going to entertain a bunch of adrenaline-fuelled Eurovision fans. 

A big problem that no host city, or host fanclub, has dealt with properly is what to do with fans who don’t drink or club. There’s a lack like of sober, quieter places.

6. A Eurovision village

This is another opportunity for the host city to show off to tourists – usually it’s in a central square with big screens, beer tents, merch stalls and a stage. There are special performances – screenings of all the live shows and a place for people from all over Europe to mingle.

But if you put it somewhere to show off your city, it often ends up being miles away from the arena – forcing people to make big trips back and forth across a city. That’s fine in Lisbon, where you’ve got great and cheap public transport, but it won’t work as seamlessly everywhere else. Also, don’t make Lisbon’s mistake – if you’re selling lots of beer, have more than six portaloos.

Could every city do it? You really do have to wonder. Kiev came perilously close to losing the right to host it last year, with rumours that Berlin was preparing to step in. A surprise win could leave some countries with a hell of a hangover on Sunday morning. But the Eurovision circus always finds a way to roll on.

 
 
 
 

What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.