Prepare yourself for plenty of cheesy tunes and out-of-this-world staging: the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 is upon us. But the 64th edition of the competition – the final of which takes place on 18th May 2019 – has an unusual host city, one not technically in Europe.
The semi-finals and finals will be held at the Expo convention centre in Tel Aviv, Israel.
This technically means that the contest is taking place in Asia, with Israel located beyond the fringes of Europe.
Despite not being a European country in location, Israel has taken part in Eurovision since 1973. You don’t actually need to be in Europe to compete in the contest – think Australia – just a member of the European Broadcasting Union.
Because Eurovision is normally hosted by the previous year’s winner. Israel won the contest in 2018, their act Netta singing (and clucking) up to the top of the points table with her song Toy.
Why isn’t Eurovision 2019 taking place in Jerusalem?
Good question. Although it has hosted Eurovision twice before – in 1979 and 1999 – and despite 2018 winner Netta telling crowds last year that she’d be performing there, Eurovision 2019 won’t be taking place in Jerusalem.
Why? Well, Jerusalem – a city considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims – could be seen as a controversial choice given that Eurovision rehearsals and the main competition overlap certain holy days, and because its disputed status among Israelis and Palestinians could arguably lead to attempts from some quarters to boycott the competition. Donald Trump’s recent decision to build a new US embassy there, thus recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, hasn’t helped the situation either.
However, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, has said the decision to choose Tel Aviv, Israel’s cultural and commercial capital, as host city was taken simply because of its “creative and compelling bid”.
“All the bids were exemplary, but in the end, we decided that Tel Aviv provides the best overall setup for the world’s largest live music event,” said the EBU’s executive supervisor Jon Ola.
Are some people angry about Israel hosting Eurovision?
Funny you should ask: yes, there have been calls for boycotts from groups in Sweden, Portugal, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
This is due to concerns about Palestinian human rights. A letter from 50 stars – including Maxine Peake, Miriam Margolyes and Peter Gabriel – criticised what it described as Israel’s “systematic violation of Palestinian human rights” and urged the BBC to ask for the contest to be relocated.
However, the BBC said Eurovision was “not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign”.
Where will Eurovision take place in 2020?
It should take place in the country that wins the 2019 contest.
However, there are a few scenarios where this could change. The first: if popular Australian act Kate Miller-Heidke wins. As it would be a real pain for every other country to travel to the other side of the planet for the contest, Australia would team up with another European Broadcasting Union member to host. That means if Australia wins, the contest could be hosted in the UK. In fact, Miller-Heidke has suggested to RadioTimes.com that London would be her preferred host city.
There have also been times that countries have refused to host. The last time this happened – in 1980 – Israel declined to put on the contest due to expenses and because the date fell on the country’s Remembrance day. After several countries (including the UK) turned down the offer to host, the contest was eventually held in The Netherlands.