When Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT announced that Eurovision 2013 will take place in Malmö, fans were furious: the capacity of Malmö Arena, they shouted, is ‘only’ 15,500 seats. With the exception of hate crime statistics, the motto of Eurovision 2013 appears to be “less is more.” Further proof comes in SVT’s ridiculously small budget of €12 million.
“In recent years the contest was too big, everyone wanted to impress with big arenas but the artists almost disappeared in the arena, and they are the stars of the evening after all,” Christer Björkman, the head of Sweden’s Eurovision delegation, told Expressen. Damn right, Christer! It’s hard for artists to fill a stage with the area of a golf course (as in Baku, pictured at top). Knowing how tough it would be to compete with the stage, some artists didn’t even try. (Yes, we are looking at you, Sofi Marinova).
Compared to the fat budgets at the disposal of other host cities, Sweden’s is noticeably slimmer. It’s €5 million cheaper than what Sweden’s Norwegian neighbors coughed up in 2010, and around a quarter of the €48 million Baku admits to spending. (It should be noted that some investigative journalists have suggested Baku sunk nearly $300 million into the event). But the Swedish budget is more than double the €6 million that SVT spent when hosting the contest in 2000. That’s not surprising. In the past decade Eurovision has added two semi-finals to its line-up, and the number of participating countries has doubled.
Nonetheless, Malmö 2013 will be a big step back in terms of the arenas we’ve seen in the last couple of years (though still impressive compared to many Eurovision arenas of old). Martin Österdahl, executive producer of next year’s show, has said the the Azeris saw Eurovision as a “prestige project.” The Swedes, however, want to “get back to the heart of the matter: a TV program”.
The Swedes are setting a great example in a time of austerity, and helping to reduce the fear felt in broadcasting rooms from Tallinn to Tirana. When a developed country like Sweden decides to host Eurovision on the cheap, that gives smaller countries like Albania and Estonia the hope that they can throw down a good show with a smaller budget, too.