It was a major shock to many Eurofans when the Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam withdrew its bid to host the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. In retrospect, the city’s vision for the hosting gig simply would not have worked anyway.
A reconstruction provided by Amsterdam’s main television channel AT5 makes it clear that Amsterdam faced significant obstacles to winning the hosting rights for Eurovision 2020. Perhaps the biggest struggle was finding the right venue.
Amsterdam’s pop palace Ziggo Dome backed out right away when its board understood that the venue would have to be handed over for at least eight weeks. The venue would have had to cancel many international stars, as April and May are usually the months when these acts travel to the Netherlands.
Amsterdam suggested a festival tent for Eurovision 2020
As the Johan Cruijf Arena was also occupied by football club AFC Ajax for Spring 2020, Amsterdam was left with no venue. This doesn’t mean they were left without any creative ideas.
The project group, consisting of at least thirteen civil servants responsible for the bid book, had the idea to erect a festival tent. This tent would include the main stage, dressing rooms as well as the press centre. The project group revealed that they were inspired by the Lowlands festival, an annual three-day pop and art festival held in Biddinghuizen, Flevoland, which is held in a tent.
One civil servant found a clause in the potential contract with a tent provider that said the tent is not to be used during adverse weather conditions. The Netherlands has unpredictable weather, so it would be impossible to safeguard the tent — a storm could strike at any point during Eurovision preparations.
In the past, festivals and their tents have suffered from the force of severe weather. In 2010, the preparations for the festival Zwarte Cross in the eastern town of Lichtenvoorde were hit by a series of landspouts, which blew away main stage’s tent. As a result, the festival had to be held in the open air. That is, of course, impossible for Eurovision as it needs to attach cameras, lights and other equipment to the ceiling of the venue’s roof.
Amsterdam is not the first city to explore a tent as a Eurovision venue. Both Vienna and Odessa considered tents for Eurovision 2015 and 2017 respectively. In 2014, Eurovision host city Copenhagen had a special tent complex for both the press centre as well as the dressing rooms.
Did the Amsterdam City Council know what they signed up for?
It’s worth asking whether the city council had any clue about the scope of the contest. The city had allocated a small budget compared to other cities in the bidding phase — just €5 million. Maastricht and Rotterdam each eventually budgeted three times as much.
Next to that, the project group wanted to rebrand Eurovision as SongFESTIVAL. The thinking seemed to be that the contest would have a “festival” feel with a complete village made of festival tents. In an internal email conversation, given to AT5, one civil servant said: “It’s quite a clever idea really. Finally something new in that somewhat conservative ESC club.”
Progressive or not, the Amsterdam City Council project group struggled with compiling a cohesive bidbook. In the weeks leading to the deadline, the city council sent a list of 170 questions to the Eurovision 2020 organising broadcasters.
After the deadline approached, and their tent idea didn’t pan out, the capital concluded that it had to withdraw.
Were you sad that Amsterdam backed out from hosting Eurovision 2020? Would you mind watching Eurovision from a festival tent? Let us know in the comments below!
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