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.
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.