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Thousands attend Eurovision Song Contest 2021

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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Eurovision Song Contest becomes Back to Live pilot

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands will take place as a government-backed pilot event with a small in-person audience, a Dutch minister has announced.

Arie Slob, a minister for media under culture secretary Ingrid van Engelshoven, tells De Telegraaf that it will be possible to admit thousands of fans to Eurovision, which returns this spring after cancelling in 2020, by bringing the contest under Fieldlab Evenementen’s Back to Live, a series of pilot concerts, festivals and other live events which has been running since February. The most recent Back to Live events, two test festivals held at the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, took place on 20 and 21 March.

Currently, it is hoped a maximum of 3,500 people a day will be admitted to the 16,426-capacity Rotterdam Ahoy arena from 18 to 22 May, though plans are subject to change should the coronavirus situation deteriorate.

As with previous Back to Live trial events, fans will only be permitted to enter the Ahoy after testing negative for Covid-19.

“We welcome this decision by the Dutch government and the possibility that we can invite fans to join us”

In total, there will be nine shows, including rehearsals, for Eurovision 2021, the 65th edition of the pan-European song contest.

“We welcome this decision by the Dutch government and the possibility that we can invite fans to join us as we bring the Eurovision Song Contest back in May,” says Martin Österdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor.

“We will consider the options now available and announce more details in the coming weeks on how we can safely admit audiences to the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam should the situation allow. The health and safety of all those attending the event remains our top priority.”

“The fact that we now have the opportunity to plan for a Eurovision Song Contest with an audience again is something we could only dream of [previously],” the contest’s executive producer Sietse Bakker tells public broadcaster NOS. “We are grateful to the cabinet and to Fieldlab Evenementen for this perspective and the confidence they have placed in us.”

 


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Organisers call off 2020 Eurovision Song Contest

The 65th Eurovision Song Contest has become the latest high-profile event to be called off in the face of the continuing spread of coronavirus.

The news comes just hours after organisers announced the cancellation of the 2020 Glastonbury Festival.

The European Broadcasting Union announced today (18 March) that the annual competition, which was set to take place on 16 May at the 16,000-capacity Rotterdam Ahoy Arena, has been delayed until 2021.

“It is with deep regret that we have to announce the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020,” reads a statement from organisers.

“The Eurovision Song Contest will come back stronger than ever”

“We have explored many alternative option to allow the contest to go ahead. However, the uncertainty created by the spread of Covid-19 throughout Europe means it is impossible to continue with the live event as planned.”

The event’s executive supervisor, Jon Ola Sand, adds: “We are very proud of the Eurovision Song Contest, that for 64 years has united people all around Europe. We regret this situation very much, but I can promise you: the Eurovision Song Contest will come back stronger than ever.”

Participating broadcasters are in discussions with the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group to decide whether the selected artists will be able to perform their songs next year.
Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence won last year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Photo: Rotterdam Ahoy (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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All the world’s a stage: Ericsson Globe at 30

What began life 30 years ago as one of the most controversial buildings in Stockholm has now become woven into the fabric of the Swedish capital and a celebrated part of the city’s skyline.

The Ericsson Globe – known locally simply as “Globen” – took over two years to build. It opened its doors on 19 February 1989 and remains the largest hemispherical building in the world. Over the past three decades it has changed the live entertainment and sports environment not just in Stockholm but across Scandinavia. In that time, the venue has hosted over 3,300 events and seen 35 million customers through its doors.

Its construction at the time was desperately needed as there was no purpose-built multifunctional arena in the region until its arrival, with concerts and other family entertainment events having to make do in ice hockey arenas that dated back to the 1960s.

“There was an architectural competition to build the new arena and to make it a landmark of the city,” says Marie Lindqvist, the venue’s vice president and general manager. “It is a spherical building, and it was very controversial at the beginning but it has become a well-known and well-loved landmark in the city of Stockholm. The building was completely new and very modern. It was very different to what had been in the market before.”

Its impact was instant, putting Stockholm on the international touring plans for major acts and events, as it meant they could now play to audiences of up to 16,000 in a purpose-built arena.

“The Globe has been a major contributor to Stockholm growing on the international music and entertainment market”

“The Globe has been a major contributor to Stockholm growing on the international music and entertainment market,” says Lindqvist. “It has been an enabler for Stockholm to get big shows but also to host international championships in ice hockey, handball, figure skating, and many more sports. It has definitely been a driver in positioning Stockholm as an events city.”

What was state-of-the-art in 1989, however, can start to look and feel archaic in 2019. As such, the venue has been keenly aware of the need to constantly evolve, to ensure it doesn’t become as anachronistic as the hockey arenas it superseded.

Scandinavia has long been a leader in the adoption of online and mobile technologies, and it is only to be expected that this has impacted on live entertainment in the region before most other places in the world. The Globe has adapted to keep itself at the forefront of these developments.

Jenny Blomqvist, head of event sales at the venue, says that while laptop/PC sales of tickets are still 50% of the market there, mobile is where the focus is now. “We do see a big shift towards mobile payments,” she says, “[and] all development within ticketing is now focused on mobile.”

With this rise of online and mobile comes a concurrent growth in the importance of data, and this feeds into how the venue runs and helps it anticipate customer behaviour.

“Today, consumers expect great connectivity in any arena; it is one of the basic components of the live experience”

“Data lets us know more about the fans and, thereby, creates a better customer journey [in terms of] what they want and how to communicate with them,” says Blomqvist. “It’s also more important with today’s technology and data to explain more about your exact position in the venue, the view from your seat, and also about possible upgrades or add-ons.”

Data, ultimately, should be used to enhance the customer experience. “With more information about visitors and sales, together with the promoter we can create a better event when it comes to getting the perfect seating plan for each show,” she says.

Alongside the customer-facing benefits of this rich data there are also business-facing upsides. “Promoters expect fast feedback on booking availabilities, so the organisation needs to quickly process information in order to find out what can be accommodated, both from a calendar and an operational perspective,” explains Blomqvist. “I would say that the organisation has sharpened its working processes and our know-how to better face up to the ever-increasing demand for arena availability.”

Given that Ericsson has been the venue’s naming partner for the past decade, mobile technologies have long been front and centre here. “Today, consumers expect great connectivity in any arena; it is one of the basic components of the live experience,” says Gil Murphy, the Globe’s head of event technology. “Most of the new ways of operating a venue depend on the connectivity in the arena with the POS systems, ticket scanning, wayfinding, and so on. Also, from an operating perspective, great connectivity is essential.”

Staying on top of the rapidly evolving digital world is a priority for the venue. “When Ericsson Globe hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016, the Wi-Fi in the arena was upgraded to a newer standard, delivered by Ericsson, and is today a network that can handle most challenges,” adds Murphy.

“Technological developments have equated to greater demand from artists as well as [raise] expectations from visitors. The arena has had to gradually evolve to meet expectations”

The next technological leap will be 5G mobile connectivity, and venues will have to move in lockstep with these telco developments. “One thing I believe is, for sure, connectivity will continue to increase, as well as new ways to interact digitally with arena visitors,” says Murphy.

Tied into this is the development of the venue’s own smartphone app, which will launch later this year for the Globe and the company’s other four arenas in the city (Friends Arena, Tele2 Arena, Annexet and Hovet).

“The goal with the new app is to smooth the consumer journey and simplify your own interaction with the event you are going to,” explains Daniel Stålbo, director of comms at the Globe. “[The app] is where you will receive your ticket to your event [and it] is also where you will get all the information about your upcoming event; tips about how to best get to the arena; where to stay; how to order and pay for your food and drinks; how to get upgrades, and so on. It also provides a new foundation for interaction with live events in ways that promoters and partners define – such as voting, quizzes, seeing playlists, and more.”

New technologies are also shaping the creative potential of the venue, allowing the touring acts and productions to do things that were inconceivable even a decade ago.

“Technological developments have equated to greater demand from artists to incorporate [new] show techniques as well as [raise] expectations from visitors for a multimedia experience that can be shared online,” is how Blomqvist puts it. “The arena has had to gradually evolve to meet expectations. For instance, we are constantly working on how to improve rig capacity, as well as creating solutions for data capacity in line with visitors’ expectations.”

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of the European Arena Yearbook 2019, or subscribe to the magazine here

Politics overshadows successful 64th Eurovision

The 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest wrapped up on Saturday at Expo Tel Aviv’s Pavilion 2 (10,000-cap.), Israel, in a contest that has seen the music industry divided on political, rather than musical, issues.

The Netherlands won Eurovision 2019 with singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence’s performance of piano ballad ‘Arcade’. The Dutch artist received 492 points, followed by Italy’s Mahmood with 465 and Russia’s Sergey Lazarev with 369. The UK’s Michael Rice placed last, with a total of 16 points, for his rendition of ‘Bigger Than Us’.

“I have been so delighted with this year’s competition and we have all been very impressed with the wonderful talented artists who have taken part this year,” says Jon Ola Sand, the European Boradcating Union’s (EBU) head of live events and the executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest.

“I would like to thank them for the hard work and dedication they have given us. Each artist has brought something unique to the contest and embodied what this contest is about,” adds Sand.

However, music was not the main topic of conversation surrounding Eurovision 2019. Following the win of Israeli act Netta Barzilai last year, the 2019 competition took place in Tel Aviv, sparking controversy due to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Despite calls to boycott the event, Madonna performed at the grand final on Saturday night. The singer opened her performance with a call for unity, declaring: “Let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together.”

Madonna’s rendition of her new single ‘Future’ featured two dancers who displayed Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs, walking arm-in-arm.

“Each artist has brought something unique to the contest and embodied what this contest is about”

Icelandic act Hatari, who finished in tenth place, also displayed Palestinian flags during the contest.

The EBU states that both sets of artists violate its rules, which designate Eurovision as a “non-political event”.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel denounced what it called the “fig-leaf gestures of solidarity from international artists”.

Ticket sales for this year’s Eurovision were lower than expected. According to Israeli paper Globes, between 5,000 and 7,000 foreign guests visited the country for Eurovision, including the participating artists’ delegations and journalists. Previous predictions expected the competition to attract between 20,000 and 30,000 tourists.

Local media puts the low numbers down to high hotel rates and steep ticket prices. Tickets to Saturday’s final set fans back £373 for prime seats and £252 for standard seats. Tickets for last year’s final, held at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, cost between £31 and £262.

Calls for a boycott may have also have affected ticket sales.

“Let’s never underestimate the power of music to bring people together”

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, an initiative working to “pressure Israel to comply with international law”, initiated the call for a boycott of Eurovision 2019. BDS claims that more than 150,000 people responded to its call, including artists and music-related organisations.

Musicians including Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Wolf Alice and Brian Eno urged a boycott of the event, due to Israel’s “grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human rights”.

The Musicians’ Union of Ireland similarly supported the boycott, calling on its members to attend protests in support of sidelining the contest.

Entertainment industry non-profit organisation, the Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), established a movement to oppose the boycott, stating that music “transcends boundaries and brings people together”.

The CCFP initiative has more than 35,000 signatories, including Sharon Osbourne, Gene Simmons and Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, as well as individuals from the Madison Square Garden Company, the Recording Academy/ Grammys and AEG Presents.

 


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Production worker killed in Eurovision set-up

The family of a production worker killed during the set up of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest at the Expo Tel Aviv fairgrounds in Israel has questioned safety measures in place for the show.

Fuldi Schwartz, a 66-year old truck driver, was fatally injured by a falling lighting rig when unloading equipment in a car park adjacent to the fairgrounds on Wednesday 15 May.

“We don’t blame anyone at this point, but how is it possible that at an event as large as Eurovision, with so much money invested, so much supervision and security, something so terrible can still happen?” Schwartz’s son, Erez, asked Israeli news site Ynet.

“How is it possible that at an event as large as Eurovision something so terrible can still happen?”

Police and officials from the Welfare Ministry’s safety and workplace health department have launched a formal investigation into the incident. According to local media reports, initial findings reveal that the lighting rig was not handled according to safety regulations.

Eurovision organisers say they are “greatly saddened by the death”, stating that “our priority is always for the safety and security of everyone involved with the Eurovision Song Contest and, in line with protocol, we are cooperating with the authorities.”

The incident follows another death earlier this year at Coachella festival, when the event’s lead rigger fell to his death. In April, an inquest into the death of a Radiohead drum technician resulted in a set of recommendations to update best practice in the live entertainment industry. Drum tech Scott Johnson was killed when a stage roof collapsed before a Radiohead show in 2012.

The second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place tonight from 8 p.m. (GMT). The final is scheduled for this Saturday (18 May).

 


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Mass staff walk-out at troubled Eurovision 2017

Twenty-one senior members of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2017 organising committee, including two executive producers, the commercial director, the event manager and the head of security, have resigned en masse.

In an open letter, published on Ukrainian website Strana, the former staff say they were shut out of the organisation of the contest following the appointment of a “new head of the competition” – presumably Pavlo Grytsak, although he is not named – last December, whereupon “the work of our team was completely blocked”.

Following Grystak’s appointment, says the letter, work on the contest “stopped for two months”, while an alternative “proposal on the distribution of powers and responsibilities” by the future resignees was rejected. “Therefore, we regret to inform you that our team can not accept such an appointment, and do not see the possibility of continuing their work on Eurovision in Ukraine,” it concludes.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organisation behind Eurovision, announced last week ticket sales had been postponed amid a dispute over the Ukrainian authorities’ choice of ticket agency. Tickets eventually went on sale yesterday, with the original winner of the contract, Concert.ua, restored to its role as the event’s ticketing partner.

It was reported in December, meanwhile – prior to Gystsak’s appointment – that the EBU had made threats to strip Ukraine of ESC 2017 over concerns about ticketing, travel arrangements and infrastructure, although executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said had “full confidence in [host broadcaster NTU] to overcome the challenges that remain”.

“We have reiterated the importance of a speedy and efficient implementation of plans already agreed, despite staff changes”

A statement from the EBU says the contest will go ahead in May as planned.

“Victoria Romanova, Oleksandr Kharebin, Iryna Asman, Denys Bloshchynski and his team and Oleksii Karaban informed the EBU on 10 February that they were resigning from their roles for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest,” it reads. “The group felt they were not able to continue work on the project owing to staffing matters at [Ukrainian public broadcaster] UA:PBC, which the EBU cannot fully comment on.

“The team have been instrumental in the planning for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and we thank them for their hard work. We have reiterated to UA:PBC the importance of a speedy and efficient implementation of plans already agreed, despite staff changes, and that we stick to the timeline and milestones that have been established and approved by the reference group to ensure a successful contest in May.”

ESC 2017 will take place from 9 to 13 May at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev. The winner of last year’s contest, which introduced a new scoring system, was Ukrainian singer Jamala, with ‘1944’.

 


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Eurovision 2017 ticket sales halted indefinitely

The sale of tickets for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has been postponed indefinitely amid controversy over the choice of ticket agency.

The decision, taken by the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine, was announced today by Jon Ola Sand of the contest’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). He comments: “We are disappointed with the delay to the start of ticket sales for the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, but are working closely with host broadcaster UA:PBC to resolve this situation. The EBU recognises that any tender process needs to be transparent and fair, and hope[s] that tickets can go on sale at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Kiev-based Concert.ua was previously announced as the winner of the contract to supply tickets, but a last-minute decision by the Antimonopoly Committee, reportedly under pressure from rival bidders, means the event is left without a ticketing partner with just three months left until kick-off.

“The EBU recognises that any tender process needs to be transparent and fair and hopes tickets can go on sale at the earliest possible opportunity”

Sales were due to begin on Monday (6 February).

It was reported in December that the EBU had made threats to strip Ukraine of the 2017 event over concerns about ticketing, travel arrangements and infrastructure, although Sand said shortly after he had “full confidence in the [host broadcaster] to overcome the challenges that remain”.

ESC 2017 will take place from 9 to 13 May at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev. The winner of last year’s contest, which introduced a new scoring system, was Ukrainian singer Jamala, with ‘1944’.

 


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Amerovision? ESC targets US fans with Timberlake

Justin Timberlake will perform at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, organiser the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has revealed.

It is the first time an artist of Timberlake’s stature has performed at the annual contest in a non-competing capacity, and can be seen as a concerted effort by the EBU to appeal to new American viewers as it prepares the show for broadcast in the US for the first time.

Timberlake will perform his new single, ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’, at the final in Stockholm this Saturday (14 May).

“This is a fantastic opportunity,” says Eurovision show producer Sven Stojanovic. “We are very happy and excited that Justin Timberlake will perform his new song together with his band in our show. It makes it extra special that the Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Shellback have co-written and co-produced the song together with Justin Timberlake.”

IQ previously reported that voting will be totally overhauled for Eurovision 2016 in the biggest change to its format for 40 years. For the final, viewers’ votes will be recorded separately to judges’ for the first time (in previous years they were combined, each accounting for 50 per cent of the final score), effectively offering every act the chance for double points.

Måns Zelmerlöw of Sweden won Eurovision 2015.