Since the Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956, there have been 43 Eurovision host cities. Eurovision offers a great opportunity to profile a host city to an international audience whilst attracting tens of thousands of visitors during the contest itself . One of the aims of this blog is to visit each and every Eurovision host city.
What does it take to become a Eurovision Host City?
Once a country wins the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s time to consider which city should host the contest in the following year. As Eurovision tradition dictates, the winning nation is given the opportunity to host in the following year.
Although, some smaller towns have hosted the contest (such as Millstreet in 1993, a town with a population of less than 2,000 people), today the contest is larger than ever. This means that there are certain criteria required for a city to host the Eurovision Song Contest.
A Eurovision host city today must have the following:
- A venue which can host around 10,000 fans and a press centre close by for 1,500 journalists.
- Easy access to an international airport.
- At least 2,000 hotel rooms for delegates, journalists and spectators.
In recent years these criteria have meant that many cities are not longer able to host the contest even though they may have done so in the past.
Are Eurovision Host Cities always the Capital City?
Not necessarily, although capital cities are usually in the running, as they often have the necessary infrastructure to host the content.
But that doesn’t mean that Eurovision will always take place in a capital city. There are many instances where a smaller city has become the Eurovision Host City.
Although capital cities often have the largest venues for the contest, these venues are often booked by international artists far in advance. The Eurovision Song Contest requires full access to the venue for 6 to 8 weeks ahead of the contest. This would mean that any venue with bookings for that period is unlikely to host the contest. For large venues like the O2 in London or Wembley Arena, this could make it difficult for them to host the contest as it would mean cancelling existing events and potentially losing income.
Some host countries may want to share the benefits of hosting Eurovision, especially if the capital city already attracts large numbers of visitors.
As a consequence, smaller cities can often become Eurovision host cities. In 2011, Dusseldorf was chosen over Berlin. Similarly in 2020, Rotterdam was chosen above Amsterdam.
What about smaller countries?
The criteria for becoming a Eurovision host city could pose problems for some countries. San Marino is a great example; the micro state is one of the smallest nations in the contest. In the event of winning the contest, it is unlikely that San Marino would be able to host the contest as it lacks much of the required infrastructure.
There is little precedent for what would happen here as it hasn’t happened yet. However it’s likely that the European Broadcasting Union would need to source an alternative host nation. It’s likely that the broadcaster from the winning nation would jointly host the contest, as would happen if Australia won.
The winning nation can also decline the opportunity to host the contest for any reason. This has happened five times historically. The United Kingdom stepped in as host on four of these occasions.
What if the Host City doesn’t have a suitable venue?
It’s not uncommon for a venue to build especially for the Eurovision Song Contest or for an existing building to be repurposed.
In 2012, the Baku Crystal Hall was constructed to host the contest. Eurovision 2014 was hosted inside a former ship building factory and Eurovision 1993 was hosted in a temporary venue built at an equestrian centre in Millstreet.