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Thousands attend Eurovision Song Contest 2021

Rotterdam's Ahoy welcomed 25 live acts and 3,500 fans for Eurovision 2021, the Netherlands' largest indoor Covid-era event

By Jon Chapple on 24 May 2021

Italy's Måneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest 2021

Italy's Måneskin won the Eurovision Song Contest 2021

image © NPO/NOS/AVROTROS/Nathan Reinds

Organisers have hailed as a success the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which, with 3,500 Covid-negative live music fans in attendance, was the biggest indoor pilot event held in the Netherlands to date.

The 2021 contest, the first since 2019, concluded at the 16,500-capacity Ahoy arena in Rotterdam on Saturday (22 May), with Italian band Måneskin crowned the winner for their song ‘Zitti e buoni’. In total, 26 countries made it to the final, with all but one (Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið, one of whom tested positive for Covid-19) performing live from the arena on the night.

This year’s competition took the form of a pilot show, welcoming an in-person audience as part of the government-approved Back to Live series, coordinated by pan-industry body Fieldlab Events. To gain entry to the arena, everyone involved – including performers, fans, country delegations, press, staff and crew – had to register a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours, and then get tested again once on site at the dedicated Eurovision test pavilion (pictured).

Eurovision Test Pavilion

In addition, social distancing was enforced throughout the venue, while masks had to be worn whenever people moved around the arena (even performers on their way to the stage).

As a Fieldlab event, no persons deemed to be at risk, such as the elderly, were eligible to apply for tickets – which caused some controversy in the run-up to the show, with former Eurovision winner Getty Kaspers (of Teach-In) among those to criticise the ‘no over-70s’ rule.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a turning point for me”

Among the fans who were successful in getting tickets, the atmosphere at the Ahoy was celebratory. “Everyone is decked out in flags and costumes with a lot of glitter,” one attendee, Deuss, tells public broadcaster NOS. “The atmosphere is cheerful and exuberant. People here feel that they are the lucky ones.”

Jolanda Jansen, director of Rotterdam Ahoy and a spokesperson for Fieldlab member Alliance of Event Builders, says seeing the arena full of staff and fans was her highlight of Eurovision week.

“The moment that moved me the most was seeing all our colleagues happy at work again,” she tells Tubantia. “We’ve come a long way; 2020 was a terrible year. We had to let 40% of the workforce go.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a turning point for me. From now on it will only get better.”

According to Dutch economic minister, the provisional results from the second phase of Fieldlab/Back to Live events are positive. The full results, which follow the similarly positive findings from the first test events in February, will be announced in the near future.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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