The UK is being lined up to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest, after organisers of the annual competition broke with tradition and “with deep regret” concluded that it would be too dangerous for this year’s winner Ukraine to stage the festival.
This year’s edition of Eurovision, which was first held in 1956, was won by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra last month, as voters from across the continent showed solidarity with the country that is battling a Russian invasion.
But the European Broadcasting Union, organiser of the competition, on Friday announced that it would have to break with tradition of having the competition hosted by the previous year’s winner, as the war made it too dangerous to begin preparations for the show in Ukraine.
The tradition of the previous winner hosting Eurovision has not been broken since 1980, when Israel won for a second year in a row and declined to hold the show again, with the Netherlands stepping in.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most complex TV productions in the world with thousands working on, and attending, the event and 12 months of preparation time needed,” the EBU said, explaining its decision to search for another host.
The alliance has turned to the UK, which came second with Sam Ryder’s Space Man, to discuss whether the event could be held in the country. Conversations will be held with the UK’s public service broadcaster, the BBC.
“It is our full intention that Ukraine’s win will be reflected in next year’s shows. This will be a priority for us in our discussions with the eventual hosts,” the EBU concluded.
The BBC confirmed that it would consider hosting next year’s Eurovision but added that “clearly these aren’t a set of circumstances that anyone would want”.
Eurovision has not been held in the UK since 1998, the year after the country won with Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves.
The non-profit event is usually financed by fees from each participating broadcaster, as well as contributions from the host broadcaster and city, in addition to sales of tickets and other sponsorship. Estimates as to the costs vary, but the total budget is likely to run into the tens of millions of pounds.
Hosting Eurovision could present a challenge for the BBC, which has been forced through a funding squeeze in light of an increasingly contentious relationship with the Tory government.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy had after Kalush Orchestra’s win vowed that the country, which last hosted the show in 2017, would “do our utmost to one day host . . . Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful and rebuilt!” The city is currently under Russian control.