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Eurovision 2023: Cardiff pulls out from the host city bid race!

It was announced today that Cardiff will not proceed with its host city application for Eurovision 2023, due to the unavailability of the Principality Stadium (proposed venue) during the Eurovision period.

That is despite the fact that the Cardiff Council, the Welsh Government and the Principality Stadium had initially expressed a great interest in hosting the show in May 2023.

The above actors clarified, in their joint statement, that hosting Eurovision would have caused cancellations of a great number of significant scheduled events.

Here is the joint statement by the Principality Stadium, the Cardiff City Council, and Welsh Government’s officials:

“Since it was confirmed that the UK would host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, Cardiff Council, the Welsh Government and Principality Stadium have been working at pace to establish the feasibility of a bid to host the event in Wales’ capital city.”

“Cardiff’s very strong track record in hosting major events, and the world-class Principality Stadium, would have made it a natural fit for such a significant production.”

“The BBC, as the event organisers, have released detailed specifications for each city wishing to bid to host the event. As partners, we have been working through these in detail. It is clear that on many of these Cardiff would have a very strong case to become the host city for Eurovision 2023.”

“However, the complexity of staging the event means that a significant number of scheduled events in the Principality Stadium during Spring 2023 would have to be cancelled as a result. These include the European Wheelchair Rugby Championships, ‘The Road to Principality’, a key event in the WRU Community rugby calendar, and a major international artist contracted to appear, among other events.”

This development, albeit not a cause of celebration for Welsh eurofans, might strengthen some other cities’ bid. Taking Wales out of the game, leaves plenty of room for Scotland’s cities to manoeuvre, with Glasgow of course leading the race in the betting odds so far.

Which is the most suitable host city for Eurovision 2023? Should the ESC take place in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland? 

“BoJo Goodbye” and Eurovision: The new scenarios for the Host City Bid Race

Political upheaval emerges in the United Kingdom after the resignation of the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, from the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party. The latter, succumbing to the pressures caused by the resignations of leading government officials in the previous days, declared that despite his resignation from the leadership of the party, he will remain in the prime minister’s position, until the upcoming elections within the Conservative Party.

Could this new development affect the host city bid race for the 67th Eurovision Song Contest? Could it also possibly affect the UK and Ukraine cooperation in co-hosting the Competition?

The history of a predetermined course

As it was previously reported, according to an announcement issued by the EBU, the latter is in negotiations with the BBC, so that the Competition can be (co)organised (jointly with Ukraine) within the UK. Despite the disapproval that have been officially expressed by the Ukrainian Minister of Culture, the decision appears to be final, with the debate now turning to the choice of the city, within the UK, which will host the event.

As we noted in our previous article, so far at least 15 cities have expressed their interest in hosting the Competition (in alphabetical order):

  • Aberdeen
  • Belfast
  • Birmingham
  • Brighton
  • Cardiff
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • London
  • Manchester
  • Prudhoe
  • Sheffield
  • Sunderland
  • Wolverhampton

A lot of digital ink has been spilled in relation to which of them is the most suitable to undertake this great challenge, always in view of the requirements established (!) by the EBU, which include inter alia:

  • a suitable (closed) space that can accommodate at least 10,000 spectators,
  • a suitable space for over 1,500 journalists and delegates,
  • suitable accommodation located in close proximity to the venue where the Competition is to be hosted,
  • international airport nearby or within the city.

The video below, in which Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of ESC until 2020, breaks down the process and the factors that are considered in the host city bid.

Glasgow as the preferred choice

Out of the cities that have expressed interest, several of them meet the aforementioned criteria, with the participation of Glasgow, however, being rumoured, as the prevalent choice. Glasgow, the most populous city in Scotland and the third most populous in the entire United Kingdom, seems like an ideal choice. The 14,300-capacity OVO Hydro Arena (which the Scottish First Minister seems to suggest as the best choice in her tweet) is in a great location, being just an eight-minute walk from BBC Scotland (the BBC’s Scottish branch). In addition, a conference center is located just near the OVO Hydro Arena, which could be utilised as a press center. More information on the scenario of Glasgow’s selection as a host city can be found here.

Right to Left: the OVO Hydro Arena, and the SEC Armadillo (auditorium). A third venue known as SEC Centre (not shown on the picture), together with OVO Hydro Arena and SEC Armadillo make up the Scottish Event Campus.

The resounding message of the Welsh Parliament

In a recent development, beyond Scotland, Wales (with Cardiff being the leading candidate host city), appears to also be a strong competitor. Specifically, on July 29, the Plenary Session of the Welsh Assembly (Senedd), after expressing its regret for Ukraine’s inability to organise the Competition, officially called on the Welsh Government to take the matter of the organisation of ESC on Welsh soil more seriously, and to engage EBU and BBC in discussions towards this direction.

During the session, the minutes of which can be found here, it was pointed out that Wales has never hosted the Contest, and the possibility of Eurovision being held in Wales would bring a large amount of tourism to boost the country’s economy. Surprisingly, another matter that was raised during the session, is the Conservative party’s 2021 call for Wales to participate in the contest separate from the UK, which cannot happen as long as the BBC holds broadcasting rights or Wales remains as part of the UK.

Although the prospect of hosting the ESC at the 74,500-seat Cardiff Principality Venue sounds extremely interesting, as this would result in the largest on-site audience to date, significant concerns have also been expressed as to whether Cardiff (or any other city in the Wales) could meet the conditions set by the EBU, and more specifically whether it could accommodate such a number of visitors, given the insufficient availability of accommodation within the city.

Political factors that will potentially influence the choice

It can be assumed that the 67th ESC will not be hosted on English soil, and the political instability that has emerged in the country, in light of the resignation of Boris Johnson, plays a certain role in this outcome (although impossible to assess the exact degree). Despite the fact that the resignation of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom inevitably affects all the constituent countries of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), the local governments in the latter three tend de facto to significantly facilitate the absorption of any political shocks caused therein.

Furthermore, with Northern Ireland currently being a hot potato for United Kingdom, the Scottish and Welsh bids seem to be the most likely host cities. Of course, one should not fail to take into account another factor, which rather tilts the tide towards Glasgow’s bid, namely the pro-European approach adopted by the Scottish Government in recent years. The latter’s outlook, coupled with its repeated attempts to differentiate itself from the government of Boris Johnson, especially in everything that has to do with Brexit and the relevant agreement signed between the European Union and the United Kingdom, has led Scotland to be portrayed in very good light within Europe.

UK-Ukraine relationship with a view to a joint event

A final parameter worth talking about is the close relationship between the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Admittedly, UK is one of the most important allies of Ukraine today, with Boris Johnson having, in fact, expressed a few weeks ago his opinion that EBU should reconsider organising the Competition in Ukraine, despite EBU’s relevant decision. Obviously, such a thing is not possible given the current circumstances.

What seems to be the most plausible scenario, according to a Downing Street representative, is for the ESC to be held in UK, in an event which will highlight the rich culture, tradition and creativity of Ukraine and in which, at the same time, emphasis will be given to the strong ties between the two countries.

It therefore follows that some degree of co-operation between Ukrainian and UK broadcasters will be required. In this context, Boris Johnson’s approach would certainly have ensured the two broadcasters’ harmonious cooperation (in the run-up to the event). Besides, in a poll conducted in Ukraine, Boris Johnson was found to be by far the most popular among foreign leaders, being only three percentage points below the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Nevertheless, and despite the removal of the Ukrainians’ second favourite out of the picture, it doesn’t look like the parties will have to go back to the drawing board.

And this is because the change in the leadership of the Conservatives, with the consequent change in prime ministership, does not seem to affect the relations between the United Kingdom and Ukraine, nor the support of the former for the latter. As a recent poll has shown, the pro-Ukraine mandate is not a peculiar characteristic of Boris Johnson, but a commonplace in UK politics, spanning throughout the full spectrum of the British politics.