Eurovision organisers double down that Ukraine cannot safely host 2023 contest

The Guardian - Thu Jun 23 16:56

Britain’s chances of hosting Eurovision in 2023 have edged closer after the song contest’s organisers doubled down on its decision to keep it out of Ukraine.

The country won this year with Kalush Orchestra’s Stefania, as viewers across the continent showed solidarity with the nation after Russian’s invasion.

Traditionally the winning country hosts the event the following year, but the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said it had concluded that it could not be held in Ukraine.

It said it was in talks with the BBC to host the contest in the UK, which finished in second place with Sam Ryder’s Space Man.

The decision prompted criticism from Ukraine’s culture minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, who suggested that moving Eurovision to the UK would undermine his country.

But the EBU doubled down on its decision today, citing the “severe” risk of air raids in Ukraine alongside the “high” risk of mass casualties.

It said that after a “full assessment and feasibility study” it had concluded the “security and operational guarantees” required to host the event cannot be fulfilled by Ukraine’s public broadcaster UA:PBC.

The UK’s entry, Sam Ryder, placed second in the contest with his song Space Man.
The UK’s entry, Sam Ryder, placed second in the contest with his song Space Man. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

A statement said it “fully understands the disappointment” but the decision was “guided” by the EBU’s responsibility to ensure the safety and security or everyone working and participating in the event – “the planning of which needs to begin immediately in the host country”.

The statement continued: “At least 10,000 people are usually accredited to work on, or at, the Eurovision song ontest including crew, staff and journalists. A further 30,000 fans are expected to travel to the event from across the world. Their welfare is our prime concern.

“It is therefore critical that decisions made in relation to such a complex live television event are made by broadcasting professionals and do not become politicised.

“The rules of the Eurovision song contest, that all participating broadcasters agree upon, clearly state that the event can be moved in a force majeure situation such as an ongoing war.”

The EBU said that Ukraine’s response to a security questionnaire highlighted a number of risks that would have an impact on the immediate planning of Eurovision, including the “severe” risk of air raids and attacks by aircraft, drones and missiles.

In addition, the EBU said third-party security advice found countermeasures to reduce the threats in Ukraine were “insufficient” and the risk rating of a mass casualty event due to the ongoing conflict was “high”.

The statement continued: “Alongside the security concerns, the continued conflict in Ukraine makes delegations and participants reluctant to travel to the country.

“We also noted the comments made by the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that the war in Ukraine ‘could take years’.”

It also noted that no major international concert tours are visiting Ukraine throughout 2023.

“All this contributes to the EBU’s overall assessment that in terms of security and operational guarantees, the necessary requirements for hosting, as set out in the Rules of the Eurovision song contest are not met,” it added.

The EBU concluded that the decision was made to move the event to another country, confirming that discussions were ongoing to find a “suitable location” for next year’s contest.