Eurovision 2014 behind the scenes: The many troubles of B&W Hallerne
The Eurovision Song Contest is a massive event and a massive TV-production. For the local broadcasters that take on the responsibility, it is, for most, the largest production they will ever undertake.
This was also the case for DR and Denmark, and the Danish national broadcaster commissioned a documentary crew to document the entire process.
For the third episode, the crew focused on the daunting task of turning the old B&W shipbuilding halls into a space capable of hosting the biggest music competition in the world and the headaches that DR suffered from their bold venue choice.
It is important to understand the division of responsibility when it comes to the project. For the purpose of Eurovision, a temporary project company was established containing several partners, called Host City Copenhagen. They carried the responsibility of renovating B&W Hallerne, along with every other task not directly associated with the TV-shows, such as transportation, press and artist fascilities, city events, and much more. The shows themselves were the responsibility of Danish public broadcaster DR.
Get to work already!
With 100 days before the shows are to air, in February, the Head of Show, Jan Lagermand Lundme, is getting nervous about the lack progress on Eurovision Island. He, as a part of DR, can only wait for Host City Copenhagen to complete the renovation.
At that time, only a few containers have been moved and everything else appear to be in the same shape as when the venue was selected in September. The Head of Show appears frustrated over the situation and exclaims “get to work already!”
The subject of much press attention and many problems is the three very large support columns, holding up the roof between the larger and smaller hall. They have to be removed to create a better space for TV-production, but that plan is proving to be easier said than done.
The amount of lighting and sound equipment to be suspended from the ceiling, 160 tons in total, produces such a heavy load that a new support construction has to be created, to avoid the ceiling coming down.
The discoveries of new problems push deadlines back and further stress the DR Eurovision team, as they have to be able to move in and prepare the stage and arena for the big show on a certain date.
It also tests the relationship between DR and the host city, as the new support construction has to be paid for by someone. The Executive Producer, Pernille Gaardbo, underlines that they have a delivery agreement and that when Copenhagen was chosen as host city, a certain product was promised to be delivered to them.
Floors not fit for stage
More concerns are raised when stage designer Claus Zier gets to visit the venue for the first time, as he realizes how uneven the floors are. The crew has to construct a stage which is not easy if the foundation is not level and even.
The stage designer is worried about stability, as the floor in some areas vary as much as 10 centimeters in depth. Eventually, the massive steel frame of the cube and the diamond stage would be constructed on improved floors.
A strained relationship
The DR Eurovision team is trying to stick to their deadline of wanting to move into the halls on March 1, but Host City Copenhagen is not confident that they can have the halls ready by then and starts suggesting working parallel to each other.
This eventually means that DR has to start constructing the stage while the columns are still not removed.
Further strains are put on the DR and Copenhagen relationship as the host city reports they cannot have the halls ready before March 14, which destroys all plans made by DR for stage construction and everything else.
The Eurovision team puts as much pressure on the host city team as they can, but the struggle back and forth starts to erode mutual trust between the parties. The Executive Producer comments that she feels the discussions are ending up at a petty level of trying to convince each other who works harder.
Troubles made public
Not much later, the strained relationship gets thrown into the public spotlight as the broken budgets make headlines in the Danish media, with the story of DR threatening to move Eurovision as the most eye catching.
The controversial story claims that DR has told Host City Copenhagen that if they do not secure the needed funds, they will move the show to Herning. But in the documentary, both parties categorically deny the accusations, calling them “purely made up,” which was also what they told the media following the reports.
Pernille Gaardbo underlines that DR has no wish to move the show to Herning and that they are happy with their choice in spite of the many challenges they are facing.
At the end of the day
Following repeated negative media coverage and an ever-declining relationship, DR and Host City Copenhagen set up a meeting to sort things out. It is an opportunity for the teams to clear the air and agree to work on their relationship, especially following the media storms that have required them to put forth a united front.
The teams agree to their time schedules and start working towards the shared goal of getting things finished in time.
And finally, the columns come down, just 26 days before the first technical rehearsals are planned to start. This marks a turning point in the progress of the Eurovision planning. The space has been created and DR can get ready to shine up the venue.
No Crystal Hall
The columns are down in time for the heads of delegations meeting, as representatives from each of the 37 participating countries visit Copenhagen to hear more about the plans and visit the venue.
They are not all convinced. A Romanian representative comments that she is “shocked,” an Albanian representative hopes that it will look different once completed, and the Azerbaijani Head of Delegation comments that it is “not a Crystal Hall” but hopes it will be ready for the show and wishes good luck.
Ready for the show
In a very short amount of time, the insides of the halls change. Construction of the stage continues, audience bleachers are constructed, the largest LED screen in Danish history ever is installed, and light and sound is established. All in less than a month.
In spite of all of the struggles and delays, the technical rehearsals start in the middle of April and things move forward as all of the plans become reality.
Screen dumps and documentary: DR