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.

 
 
 
 

“Stop worrying about hairdressers”: The UK government has misdiagnosed its productivity problem

We’re going as fast as we can, here. Image: Getty.

Gonna level with you here, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of schadenfreude, so learning that it the government has messed up in a previously unsuspected way gives me this sort of warm glow inside. On the other hand, the way it’s been screwing up is probably making the country poorer, and exacerbating the north south divide. So, mixed reviews really.

Here’s the story. This week the Centre for Cities (CfC) published a major report on Britain’s productivity problem. For the last 200 years, ever since the industrial revolution, this country has got steadily richer. Since the financial crash, though, that seems to have stopped.

The standard narrative on this has it that the problem lies in the ‘long tail’ of unproductive businesses – that is, those that produce less value per hour. Get those guys humming, the thinking goes, and the productivity problem is sorted.

But the CfC’s new report says that this is exactly wrong. The wrong tail: Why Britain’s ‘long tail’ is not the cause of its productivity problems (excellent pun, there) delves into the data on productivity in different types of businesses and different cities, to demonstrate two big points.

The first is that the long tail is the wrong place to look for productivity gains. Many low productivity businesses are low productivity for a reason:

The ability of manufacturing to automate certain processes, or the development of ever more sophisticated computer software in information and communications have greatly increased the output that a worker produces in these industries. But while a fitness instructor may use a smartphone today in place of a ghetto blaster in 1990, he or she can still only instruct one class at a time. And a waiter or waitress can only serve so many tables. Of course, improvements such as the introduction of handheld electronic devices allow orders to be sent to the kitchen more efficiently, will bring benefits, but this improvements won’t radically increase the output of the waiter.

I’d add to that: there is only so fast that people want to eat. There’s a physical limit on the number of diners any restaurant can actually feed.

At any rate, the result of this is that it’s stupid to expect local service businesses to make step changes in productivity. If we actually want to improve productivity we should focus on those which are exporting services to a bigger market.  There are fewer of these, but the potential gains are much bigger. Here’s a chart:

The y-axis reflects number of businesses at different productivities, shown on the x-axis. So bigger numbers on the left are bad; bigger numbers on the right are good. 

The question of which exporting businesses are struggling to expand productivity is what leads to the report’s second insight:

Specifically it is the underperformance of exporting businesses in cities outside of the Greater South East that causes not only divergences across the country in wages and standards of living, but also hampers national productivity. These cities in particular should be of greatest concern to policy makers attempting to improve UK productivity overall.

In other words, it turned out, again, to the north-south divide that did it. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? This is my shocked face.

The best way to demonstrate this shocking insight is with some more graphs. This first one shows the distribution of productivity in local services business in four different types of place: cities in the south east (GSE) in light green, cities in the rest of the country (RoGB) in dark green, non-urban areas in the south east in purple, non-urban areas everywhere else in turquoise.

The four lines are fairly consistent. The light green, representing south eastern cities has a lower peak on the left, meaning slightly fewer low productivity businesses, but is slightly higher on the right, meaning slightly more high productivity businesses. In other words, local services businesses in the south eastern cities are more productive than those elsewhere – but the gap is pretty narrow. 

Now check out the same graph for exporting businesses:

The differences are much more pronounced. Areas outside those south eastern cities have many more lower productivity businesses (the peaks on the left) and significantly fewer high productivity ones (the lower numbers on the right).

In fact, outside the south east, cities are actually less productive than non-urban areas. This is really not what you’d expect to see, and no a good sign for the health of the economy:

The report also uses a few specific examples to illustrate this point. Compare Reading, one of Britain’s richest medium sized cities, with Hull, one of its poorest:

Or, looking to bigger cities, here’s Bristol and Sheffield:

In both cases, the poorer northern cities are clearly lacking in high-value exporting businesses. This is a problem because these don’t just provide well-paying jobs now: they’re also the ones that have the potential to make productivity gains that can lead to even better jobs. The report concludes:

This is a major cause for concern for the national economy – the underperformance of these cities goes a long way to explain both why the rest of Britain lags behind the Greater South East and why it performs poorly on a

European level. To illustrate the impact, if all cities were as productive as those in the Greater South East, the British economy would be 15 per cent more productive and £225bn larger. This is equivalent to Britain being home to four extra city economies the size of Birmingham.

In other words, the lesson here is: stop worrying about the productivity of hairdressers. Start worrying about the productivity of Hull.


You can read the Centre for Cities’ full report here.

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

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