The UK has agreed to host the Eurovision Song Contest next year after organizers said there was no prospect of a pop extravaganza in war-torn Ukraine.
The BBC will now host the world’s largest live music event, featuring performers from across Europe and Central Asia, as well as Israel and Australia, in a yet-to-be-determined UK city.
This year, Ukraine became the hero of the competition in Italy, ahead of the UK, which took second place. Last month, he insisted that next year he would be able to receive guests despite the Russian invasion.
But after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) ruled it out for security reasons, the government in Kyiv agreed to a UK-hosted event with a strong Ukrainian flair.
Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko said on Monday that after “several rounds” of discussion, the EBU assured “extremely high integration of the Ukrainian context and presenters”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that during a telephone conversation last week with President Volodymyr Zelensky, they “agreed that wherever Eurovision 2023 takes place, it should glorify the country and people of Ukraine.”
“As we are now the host, the UK will honor this promise directly and put on a fantastic contest on behalf of our Ukrainian friends,” Johnson tweeted.
Johnson’s spokesman added that the soon-to-retire prime minister “very much wanted” Ukraine to host the 2023 event and said it was “deeply regrettable” that this was no longer possible.
In May, the Ukrainian folk rap group Kalush Orkestr won in Turin on a wave of support for their country after the Russian invasion.
Its lead singer Oleg Psyuk, whose bubblegum-colored bucket hat helped him become one of the main stars of the evening, thanked the UK for intervening.
“We hope that Eurovision 2023 will have a Ukrainian flavor and celebrate our beautiful, unique culture,” he said in a statement to the British Press Association news agency.
“We, in turn, will make every effort to help Ukraine win next year, so that Eurovision 2024 can take place in a peaceful country.”
Cities are waiting in the wings
At the convention next year, the winning country hosts a kitsch celebration of music. The last time the UK hosted it was in 1998.
But last month, the EBU said Ukraine could not guarantee the safety of the more than 10,000 people involved in the filming, and another 30,000 fans are expected to attend.
The Broadcasting Union stuck to its line, despite protests from the Zelenskiy government, and rejected one proposal to move the competition to the border of Ukraine, away from the front line.
The EBU said that Ukraine is still guaranteed a place in the 2023 grand final along with the organization’s “top five” nations: the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The rest of the finalists will be selected by the audience and judges through a nationwide vote, typically ranging from mainstream pop to the quite offbeat.
British runner-up Sam Ryder (pictured) was the star at this year’s competition. Source: Getty, AFP / Marco Bertorello
BBC Director-General Tim Davy said he was “very sorry” that Ukraine would not be able to host him next year.
“The BBC aims to make this event a true reflection of Ukrainian culture and showcase the diversity of British music and creativity,” he said.
But the cash-strapped BBC also has to contend with having to pay a multimillion-euro bill to put on a show, unless the UK government provides more support.
The broadcaster has said it intends to select a UK venue by autumn in collaboration with the EBU.
Whichever city wins, it must have an international airport, a large conference venue, and thousands of hotel rooms.
London, Manchester and Sheffield said they were ready to intervene. Glasgow has previously shown interest.
In this year’s competition, Sam Ryder from Great Britain, who took second place, became a star.
Last month, in front of another worldwide TV audience, Ryder performed his whimsical song Space Man in front of Buckingham Palace as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.