Eurovision 2023 could be held in the UK after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced that it was in talks with the BBC about hosting the event.
Ukraine’s victory in the 2022 contest in Turin last month inevitably prompted discussions about whether the country could realistically host the contest, given its war with Russia, and today (17 June) it has been decided that it just would not be feasible or safe to do so. Given that the UK came second and the BBC is very well practised in running big international events, Britain was always seen as the likely stand-in host.
While there has been a flurry of excitement that the UK might get to host the contest next year, taking it away from Ukraine is a bittersweet decision. Kyiv successfully hosted the contest in 2017 (albeit with a lot of help from Swedish broadcaster SVT), and winning and hosting Eurovision was important to many Ukrainians. Even though the show will be hosted outside of Ukraine it should still be a Ukrainian show – they should get their flag in the Eurovision heart logo, and the postcards between every act should showcase the country. I am sure that the BBC understands the responsibilities that would come with hosting in these circumstances.
For the UK, which had struggled in the contest for decades until Sam Ryder’s performance in Turin, there’s something strange about getting to host by default; the job of restoring our Eurovision reputation is really only half done.
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There’s no doubting, though, that the BBC will do a very good job. It has stood in before when a winning country was unable to host: Brighton 1974 gave us Abba, but the UK was only hosting because Luxembourg did not want to do it for a third time in a row. The recent Jubilee celebrations also showed how good the BBC is at putting on a spectacular event. The UK Eurovision fan-base is also huge; Eurovision was one of the most-watched TV events so far this year, so if the country does host then every show will sell out, and sell out fast.
It is, however, an expensive event for the BBC to put on at a time when the broadcaster’s finances are under a lot of pressure. It is unclear what support the UK government (or, indeed, the Scottish government, as one Nicola Sturgeon has suggested) will offer to help the BBC take it on.
The first big decision would be where to host it. You need a large indoor arena (but not too large – stadiums are out) with room for a press centre, and a city with good transport links and plenty of hotel rooms. The early favourites are Glasgow and Manchester, but expect lots of cities to make their case over the coming weeks, and the costs of hotel rooms in the month of May 2023 to rocket.
Still, despite all the challenges, if you live in Britain this could be your best opportunity to experience the Eurovision Song Contest – an event quite unlike any other.