How a city sells itself to the Eurovision organising committee offers important insight into how it will sell itself to Europe in May. With the public release of Rotterdam’s bid book — effectively its hosting application — we now have an idea of what the port city has in store and what values and attributes it hopes to convey.

Celebrate diversity

Maastricht, as you know, made much of its location near Belgium and Germany to define itself as “the most European” city. Rotterdam took a totally different path and one far more visceral, describing itself as “the most international” of all Dutch cities — and one that has offered succour and salvation to to people in need.

Writing in the forward to the bid book, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb describes “people who have come from far and wide, often driven by poverty, as in most port cities.”

“Farmers from Zeeland and Brabant, Chinese dock workers, sailors from Cape Verde, Turkish and Moroccan migrant workers, Surinamese and Antillean compatriots, Syrian refugees: they all came to Rotterdam to find a better life.”

The bid book makes other culturally savvy points. It notes that all countries participating in the song contest are represented in the communities that live in Rotterdam. Anyone else getting Düsseldorf “Feel Your Heart Beat” vibes?

Benefiting all Rotterdammers

Flagging diversity is one thing. It’s another matter to leverage Eurovision to offer diverse communities access and new opportunities. But Rotterdam wants to make it happen. The city’s bid book emphasises that the song contest should offer social benefit for everyone — regardless of their socio-economic background.

“Rotterdam has a lot to offer, but the city also has a request for the organisation: to offer Rotterdammers who find it difficult to make ends meet an unforgettable experience, such as attending rehearsals or preliminary rounds.” This will not just be a two-week holiday for corporate sponsors. The city wants all people to encounter Eurovision and take something away.

In its application, the city explicitly asked the Eurovision Song Contest organisation to discuss this proposal.

Eurovision 2020 volunteers

The city also plans to extend volunteering opportunities to all residents.

“The Municipality of Rotterdam will work in association with the organisation to recruit motivated volunteers. From people who are disadvantaged on the labour market to people who have been fans of the Contest from the outset, students or proud Rotterdammers, there are a lot of people who will not want to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, whether as city guides, ushers, bar staff or in any other role.”

Eurovision 2020 Events

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony is always one of our favourite events of Eurovision. Taking place on the Sunday before the grand final, it’s a night of glamour and celebration as acts walk down a red carpet — typically in a gorgeous locale — to the opening ceremony.

In Lisbon the red carpet was blue, nodding to water. In Tel Aviv it was orange, apparently nodding to the official sponsor MyHeritage. And in Rotterdam officials may have us going for gold.

That’s because the bid book suggested turning the iconic Erasmus Bridge into a catwalk for the red carpet event. They would create a “recycled gold carpet”, which would nod to the city’s innovation in this space. The bid book points out that Duncan Laurence’s Eurovision jacket was made from recycled linen.

As you’re walking to and from the gold carpet, you may encounter a Eurovision star…on the city’s trams! One proposal would see the trams promoting song contest artists using augmented reality.

Host city insignia and semi-final allocation draw

The host city insignia ceremony is when the mayor of the last host city officially passes the baton over to the next. Afterwards the new host city stages a draw to assign countries to the two semi-finals. Rotterdam already has its eyes on a venue. As the bid book explained:

“Rotterdam City Hall is the ideal location for hosting the City Insignia Exchange, Semi-Final Allocation Draw and Dinner for the Heads of Delegation. Rotterdam City Hall on Coolsingel was built between 1914 and 1920 in the ‘Beaux-Arts’ style. This impressive building, together with the adjacent post office, survived the bombardment on 14 May 1940, and occupies a special place in the heart of Rotterdammers.”

Rotterdam Bombardment

On May 14, 1940, the German air force destroyed almost all of Rotterdam’s historic city centre. It left 900 dead and around 85,000 others homeless. The devastation led the Dutch government to surrender the following morning.

This solemn day will coincide with the Second Semi-Final and the city is well-aware it must balance the celebrations of the song contest with the commemoration of this tragic anniversary.

“This requires some careful consideration, but also offers a great opportunity to link the commemoration to the Eurovision Song Contest, especially as it involves reflecting on the fact that we are now together, in this city, and can enjoy the Song Contest in freedom. A celebration that stands for connectedness, diversity, inclusiveness and solidarity. These are also core values in Rotterdam, shaped by this important piece of our city’s history.”

Location + free transport for press

The city’s location was a huge selling point and officials made much of its “central location and outstanding accessibility” in the bid book. This connectivity means that many nearby localities will also benefit from Eurovision tourism. The bid book explicitly lists travel times to other cities, including Breda (24 minutes), The Hague (24 minutes), Utrecht (37 minutes), and Amsterdam (40 minutes). The city is just 24 minutes from Amsterdam Schipol Airport.

And there’s good news for members of the press and other accredited visitors. They may get to travel around the city for free!

“Money has been reserved for the use of public transport by accredited persons. This has been organised based on the numbers in Stockholm. It is a topic to be discussed when concluding the agreement, when the municipality is keen to examine the actual demand.”

View this post on Instagram

Hoera! ?Rotterdam Centraal is vandaag 5 jaar! ? Het station, hier prachtig vastgelegd door @timavisual, is inmiddels een Rotterdams icoon en won al meerdere (internationale) prijzen ??. Rotterdammers noemen ‘m ook wel Station Kapsalon. Deze bijnaam ontstond toen de Rotterdamse ontwerper Baschz Leeft plaatjes op het internet zag van de gefotoshopte stationshal als haaienbek en patatzak. Zelf vond hij de hal meer lijken op het aluminium bakje van het gerecht kapsalon. Hij maakte er een ontwerp van, dat al snel populair werd op social media. Wat vind jij van ons station? ? . . . #repost #rotterdam #station #rotterdamcentraal #centraalstation #treinleven #rotterdam_holland #architecturephotography #photography #birthday #happybirthday #jublieum #loverotterdam #icon #icons #feestje #roffalove #010 #picoftheday

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Ahoy

Andy Derbyshire, the head of production for the MTV EMAs in 2016, offered a quote supporting Rotterdam’s bid. It sums up many of the benefits associated with the Eurovision 2020 venue.

“If I could design the perfect venue for a global awards ceremony like the MTV EMA’s it would look remarkably like the Ahoy in Rotterdam. We visit a different city every year, and the Ahoy ticks more of our boxes than anywhere else. It has an arena with the height and capacity to handle the size and complexity of our stage design, adjacent exhibition halls to house more than 50 dressing rooms for our performers, space to cater for thousands of crew, and still have room to build a post event party for 2,000 guests. And that’s even before you consider the exterior plazas which are perfect for Red Carpet arrivals in front of hundreds of press & media. It’s a brilliant venue, run by brilliant people.”

The bid book says it has a maximum capacity of 16,426. It also points out that the arena is only 12 minutes away from central Rotterdam by metro.

The bid book defines Hall 2 of the arena as an area typically used as a press room. It can accommodate 750 journalists, though they’re able to expand this number if necessary.

Are you excited by Rotterdam’s vision for Eurovision 2020? Do you plan on volunteering? Let us know down below!

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Esc1234
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Esc1234

Can I get an amen for a city that doesn’t need expensive tickets and help by foreigners because they have a vision? AMEN

ESCFan2009
Guest
ESCFan2009

My comment got stuck in the filter I guess xD I wanted to express how fabulous a golden carpet would be. Like, really really fab! *_*

Adam
Guest
Adam

Already I am very impressed by the bid. The Ahoy is a spectacularly modern venue with a clever design inspired by the port city’s maritime heritage. Meanwhile, the City Hall would invite us to a view of equally impressive Beaux-Arts style architecture and an opening ceremony across the striking Erasmus Bridge would just be so iconic. Rotterdam 2020 is promising to be a great way to start off the new decade for Eurovision.

ESCFan2009
Guest
ESCFan2009

A GOLDEN CARPET?! YAAAS! I am so in it 😀 😀

Liana
Guest
Liana

ABBA. Perform in the Ahoy Arena in 1979

TRENT
Guest
TRENT

Despite all the excitement – pretty Rotterdam isn’t!

Polegend Godgarina
Guest

it’s definitely not a beautiful city but they can exploit its very urban landscape for a futuristic-themed contest, stockholm 2000 did this concept perfectly

Kissmyass
Guest
Kissmyass

Talking about your face again, alt?

dutchie
Guest
dutchie

The city has very few historic buildings. The reason for that is obvious, and explained above. Rotterdammers are known to be no-nonsense hard workers, who don’t feel the need to show off. The rebuilding of the city reflected that. But in recent decades the architecture in the city has become really interesting and modern… it’s still a matter of taste, of course.

Bigger
Guest
Bigger

I think you meant “pretty Rotterdam isn’t *it*!”

Ana
Guest
Ana

Tel Aviv is one of the ugliest places if you compare it to European standards. So what? It doesn’t matter. It’s a freaking TV show, you can shoot anything in such way that it looks impressive.

Kirby
Guest
Kirby

And how would you like Rotterdam 2020 visual identity?

Loin dici
Guest

Golden?

Azaad
Guest
Azaad

This all sounds really promising. Let’s hope they deliver. If Eurovision can actually benefit the host city and its inhabitants that would be wonderful.

Eurovision Online Contest
Guest

Join our ESC-like Online Contest 😉 (Click Name)

Peter M
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Peter M

Did they just mention that people from all socio-economic backgrounds will be able to enjoy the show? Ehhhhh……have they seen the accommodation prices for that week?

Eurovision Online Contest
Guest

I think they may mean people from Rotterdam 😉

Bigger
Guest
Bigger

They indeed mean mostly the inhabitants of Rotterdam whom are in the lower social classes. Ahoy is located in Rotterdam Zuid, a large district which faces difficulties concerning unemployment, criminality, etc. This was a big problem in the past but step by step the city is trying to improve the neighbourhood by different methods such as rebuilding, renovating, modernising homes and infrastructure and redesigning the neighbourhood, injecting money for programs to give the youth and unemployed residents a fair opportunity, etc, and it helps step by step. I think what the municipality’s idea is, is giving these residents a fair… Read more »

Skiwalko
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Skiwalko

You can easily tell how much they wanted to host Eurovision by reading this bidbook, cause they’re gonna do it on a grand scale, and they want the whole city to take a part. I love these ideas – futuristic VR trams, golden recycling realness on the bridge – if they somehow make it happen, it’s gonna be simply epic! There’s not too many details here, but it all looks very promising and makes me hungry for more.

Frisian esc
Guest
Frisian esc

Ooh, i’m already looking forward to the insignia ceremony + allocation draw when you get to analyze and fantasize about the 2 different semis.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Somebody split Greece and Cyprus up for chrissake

Frisian esc
Guest
Frisian esc

And put armenia and azerbaijan together for a little competitiveness xD

Skiwalko
Guest
Skiwalko

And let’s hope they’ll be as equal in terms of quality as possible, cause I don’t want another 2018, where great entries had to stay in the semi just because the first one was so exceptionally good.

asuma
Guest
asuma

To put together two countries that hate each other is just as bad as putting together two countries that love each other. It is equally unfair.

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

There’s a funny thing with those two countries. Because Armenia and Azerbaijan (usually) never give each other *any* points, if they’re in the same semi-final, they are essentially both 12 points down before the competition has even begun. Usually this isn’t an issue because both countries have strong entries that appeal to loads of other countries, but in 2011 it could have contributed to Armenia’s non-qualification. Switzerland’s Anna Rossinelli qualified in 10th place with 55 points. Armenia’s Emmy missed out with 54 points! If another country had been in that semi-final instead of Azerbaijan and had give Emmy just two… Read more »

pepe
Guest
pepe

To be fair, Switzerland deserved qualification much more that year.

Jonas
Guest
Jonas

Or…Azerbaijan could have just played fair and voted on the merits of the song…? Another example of how Azerbaijan’s cheating has influenced the show negatively.

Robyn Gallagher
Editor

Here’s the thing. Over the past decade Greece and Cyprus have been in the same semi-final five times and different semis four time (plus 2014 when Cyprus didn’t compete). This suggests that the “pot” system is doing its job, as one would expect two neighbouring countries to be in the same semi only half the time. And here’s the other thing – has mutual 12 points from Greece and Cyprus ever ensured they’ve qualified over a less deserving country? No. Whenever they have qualified, it’s been with a considerable margin, far greater than 12 points. The closest qualifier was in… Read more »

Joe
Guest
Joe

Fair points there.

Polegend Godgarina
Guest

from 2016 onwards, it’s no longer 12 points between cyprus n greece – it’s 24 !

Esc1234
Guest
Esc1234

Thats because they send Greek artists, any other country would vote for a singer they know. And fun fact, the Greek jury gave 7 Points to Eleni foureira in the semi which is pathetic.

pepe
Guest
pepe

The last time the Netherlands and Belgium were in one semi was in 2014.

Mvaneijk97
Guest

The Netherlands and Belgium were also in the same semi in 2015

Stevan
Guest
Stevan

Flags to be tulips planted in countries’ colors?

Joe
Guest
Joe

I know the Dutch tourism board said they were hoping to show the country as more than just tulips and windmills, but they’re bound to show up at some point.

Skiwalko
Guest
Skiwalko

I like this idea, maybe it’s a bit obvious, but I’d look nice and friendly on the screen – windmills or bikes wouldn’t be bad designs either. And if you think about that, we already had a flag made out of tulips in 2014.

Joe
Guest
Joe

There is not a single sentence here that isn’t music to my ears. Rotterdam checked every single box and then some. Clear, thought-out, just the full package. Between them and the crew, this is already looking like an exemplary contest, organization-wise.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Someone should alert the participating broadcasters to select good songs in 2020 because it may not get better.

Joe
Guest
Joe

You never know, do you? Could people ten years ago have expected a top ten with, among others, the Netherlands (in first place!), Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and North Macedonia, with the Czech Republic not far away and Romania and Armenia not even in the final? You’d look crazy. Then they’d ask how Turkey was doing, and you’d say, “Well, funny thing about that…they’re still here, but not in the way you’d think…”

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

It’s a brave, new world.

Skiwalko
Guest
Skiwalko

“And what about Ukraine?”
“It’s… complicated.”

Roelof Meesters
Guest
Roelof Meesters

Opening ceremony on the Erasmus Bridge would be iconic.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Guest
Mr. Vanilla Bean

Has any other host city ever presented a better proposal than Rotterdam? After reading this, I know it was never even a question if Rotterdam would get it. It’s a flawless proposal. Also: It was about time a host city gave some serious thought about giving broad access to locals.

Eurovision fan
Guest
Eurovision fan

Why they finally just don’t let it be red as it is?

Joe
Guest
Joe

I dunno. If any Eurovision called for an orange carpet, you’d figure it’d be one in the Netherlands.