Scotland has hosted plenty of major international events – the Commonwealth Games, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Ryder Cup to name just a few.
We’ve even hosted the colourful, glitzy, musical jamboree that is the Eurovision Song Contest. That took place in Edinburgh 50 years ago at the city’s Usher Hall.
And now the country’s biggest cities are vying to host next year’s Eurovision after the event’s organisers – the European Broadcasting Union – decided the event could not be held in war-torn Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian entry Kalush Orchestra triumphed at this year’s competition in Italy, but as the UK entrant, Sam Ryder, finished in second place, it is now incumbent upon the UK to host next year’s event on behalf of Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC.
It will be the ninth time that Eurovision has been held in the UK and the BBC will act as host broadcaster.
Glasgow and Aberdeen have both already launched their bids, and Edinburgh is also weighing up whether it should apply.
The EBU’s host city criteria was based on the following last year:
- Providing a venue able to accommodate at least 10,000 spectators (as well as a press centre)
- Within easy reach of an international airport
- With ample hotel accommodation
So which Scottish city fulfils that criteria and is best placed to host one of the world’s biggest parties?
Legendary Swedish group ABBA are firm Eurovision favourites after their song Waterloo triumphed in 1974.
And, of course, who could forget that another of their biggest hits ‘Super Trouper’ contains the lyric “When I called you last night from Glasgow”.
An omen, perhaps, that Eurovision is on it’s way to Scotland’s largest city – and the bookies agree.
Glasgow is the favourite to welcome pop music fans from all over the world in 2023.
The city’s OVO Hydro venue on the banks of the River Clyde is the largest entertainment venue in Scotland and can accommodate 14,300 people. It forms part of the Scottish Event Campus, which recently hosted the COP26 climate change summit.
Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said: “Since it became a possibility that the UK might host on behalf of Ukraine we’ve been working hard on our bid.
“We know we meet all the technical requirements, and we know Glaswegians are desperate to welcome the world with open arms.
“Time is now really short to organise the contest and, having recently hosted COP, we know Glasgow is the safest of safe pairs of hands.”
Eagle-eyed Eurovision fans have spotted that slots are clear for May at the Hydro, which is around the time the competition is set to take place.
The venue also featured in Will Ferrell’s 2020 comedy The Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who represents Glasgow Southside, has thrown her support behind Glasgow’s bid.
Former Eurovision winner Lulu, 73, called for the contest to be held in her home city of Glasgow.
Speaking on BBC Newsnight, she said: “It has to be Glasgow because that’s where I come from. They’re so politically savvy, they’re the most fabulous hosts, they absolutely are music mad.
“I think it would be just the most fabulous thing, and I would be there. I just cannot wait.”
Council leaders in Aberdeen are quietly confident of staging Eurovision in the north-east of Scotland.
P&J Live, which forms part of The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), is a multi-purpose indoor arena located right next door to the city’s international airport in the Bucksburn area of the city.
It has a capacity of 15,000 and is fully equipped with a media centre and a plethora of nearby hotels. Furthermore, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, unofficially the Aberdeen Bypass, provides easy access for people travelling north from the central belt.
Aberdeen North SNP MP Kirsty Blackman is among those championing the Granite City’s bid and has signed an open letter to the BBC.
An Aberdeen City Council spokesperson said: “Aberdeen has a track record of delivering major international events and now that the EBU has confirmed that the BBC will host the 2023 Eurovision song contest, we will look at the next steps in terms of the shortlisting process.
“The council has already instructed officers to continue the dialogue with relevant stakeholders and to look at the implications for the council of hosting this international event and its huge fanbase.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is a massive event with a worldwide audience. We have the city, the people and infrastructure to support international events such as this and it would provide a major boost to the Aberdeen and Scottish economies and raise the city’s profile with potential investors and visitors.”
Aberdeen taxi driver and Eurovision super fan Kevin Sherwin has been in the audience for 23 contests and would love to see it arrive in the north-east of Scotland.
He told STV News: “This competition is so much more than the final night, it’s two weeks long and has so many people associated with it.
“I think, unlike other cities in Scotland, our event complex has everything under one roof.
“We’ve also got so many other sites here we could utilise. We could have the Euro parade in front of Marischal College, one of the world’s largest granite buildings, and perhaps we could do something with Balmoral Castle.”
Edinburgh has Eurovision pedigree – the capital is the only place in Scotland to have previously hosted the competition.
Vicky Leandros from Luxembourg was victorious with her performance of “Après toi” at the Usher Hall on Lothian Road back in 1972.
That particular venue still stands today but is no longer equipped to hold an event of such magnitude – the Usher Hall can only hold 2,900 people standing or 2,200 seated.
Despite that, Edinburgh City Council is weighing up a potential bid for next year’s Eurovision.
City of Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day said: “Edinburgh had the pleasure of hosting Eurovision 50 years ago at our very own Usher Hall – the first time it had been held outside London.
“Of course, I’d far rather the event was being held in Kyiv but, as its sister city and new home to many thousands of Ukrainians, Edinburgh would be a fitting host.
“Clearly, the scale of the event has grown since 1972, but we’ll look at all options and make a decision on whether to bid as soon as we can.”
Where has Eurovision previously been hosted in the UK?
The UK has hosted the contest in London four times (1960, 1963, 1968 and 1977), and once each in Edinburgh (1972), Brighton (1974) and Harrogate (1982).
It last hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998 in Birmingham following Katrina And The Waves’ victory in Dublin with Love Shine A Light.
Hosting it in 2023 will make it the ninth time the competition has taken place in the UK – more than any other country.
How much would hosting it cost?
Hosting Eurovision can be expensive.
Azerbaijan spent a reported £48m on hosting the event in 2012, and Hungary withdrew from competing in the 2010 contest in part due to the global financial crisis.
It is not clear whether the BBC will have to pay to host the contest from its current licence fee allocation or if it will be given further money.
It comes as the BBC needs to save a further £285m in response to culture secretary Nadine Dorries’ announcement in January that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.
The UK already spends more on Eurovision than most participants.
It is part of the so-called big five alongside France, Germany, Italy and Spain, who each get a free pass to the Grand Final because of their financial contributions.
Ukraine will automatically qualify for the Grand Final in 2023 alongside the Big Five.