Eurovision 2014 behind the scenes: We almost ended up in Herning
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 first episode, the crew focused on the big and important choice of host city, an issue that took up a lot of space in the Danish media for months, before Copenhagen was finally selected.
While the bidding phase could have been a front to make the western part of the country believe they had a chance at hosting Eurovision, the troubles in Copenhagen made Herning come very close to the trophy.
From several, to three
Several Danish cities bid to host the big show, but the field was eventually narrowed down to Copenhagen, Herning, and Horsens.
Copenhagen had both B&W Hallerne and a tent solution in front of the DR headquarters as venue options, though the tent idea is not discussed at all in the documentary. Herning brought Boxen to the table, which has hosted several editions of the Danish national selection, including the show that Emmelie de Forest won in 2013. Finally, Horsens bid with their old prison turned concert venue, along with a list of improvements that would be made to it, but is hardly mentioned throughout the documentary.
It is apparent from the documentary that DR had favored using the national stadium Parken again, like the last hosting in 2001, until the venue withdrew itself from the race. The Head of Show, Jan Lagermand Lundme, expressed great disappointment, along with his team, when the news broke. Without it, Copenhagen looked to be without a viable venue for the contest.
Copenhagen as frontrunner
Upon their first visit to B&W Hallerne, the DR team already seemed in love with the venue and appear to be close to having made up their minds already. The Executive Producer, Pernille Gaardbo, comments that it carries a risk of a financial slap in the face, and that people would eventually ask “why didn’t you just pick Herning?” That is of course what eventually ended up happening, as the project went over budget by millions.
On later visits, when the battle between Copenhagen and Herning is still on-going, the Head of Show sounds adamant about putting Eurovision in the capital, as he questions if they are crazy to place a show in this remote area, at the end of a very bumpy road full of construction equipment and debris.
Jan Lagermand Lundme sums up the two options as Copenhagen being the big city with a lot to offer, but without an obvious venue. The strength of Herning is exactly what Copenhagen lacks, as Boxen is a state of the art venue. But, the idea of B&W Hallerne grows, as the Head of Show comments that a show in Boxen could be great, but would be just another Eurovision in a mid-size arena that has been seen time and time again. The rough island offers something new and something challenging.
As time passes, the initial determination to place Eurovision in Copenhagen and in B&W Hallerne dwindles. Jan Lagermand Lundme ponders about the risk of choosing such a venue, questioning if they would be brave or stupid to choose it.
DR also discovers that the measurements delivered by Copenhagen on the halls were optimistic and are in fact smaller.
The original plans for B&W Hallerne were quite different from what ended up happening, as revealed by a venue and stage sketch in the documentary.
The stage we see here matches the stage described by stage designer Claus Zier, who in an interview described having an initial stage with a lot of circular elements. The stage is placed in the middle of the bigger hall, with audience seats extending only halfway or less into the smaller hall. The new measurements revealed to DR mean that the larger hall is even more narrow, creating a smaller space. This is also where the infamous columns are introduced.
The final plans would move the stage to the left, to allow audience seating to extend all the way into the second and smaller hall.
Good evening Herning
Because of the issues with Copenhagen, the host city selection deadline is pushed.
At an important staff meeting, DR tries to evaluate the upsides and downsides of the host cities, with an old fashioned pros and cons list. It is here that Herning gets closer and closer to winning, with the Head of Show joking “well, good evening Herning.” This meeting also definitively eliminates Horsens.
EBU officials visit the two remaining options, Copenhagen and Herning. Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor, and Sietse Bakker, Event Supervisor, appear very positive upon visiting Boxen in Herning, but are then given a tour of Herning by night, a dark and dead small town in the middle of nowhere.
When visiting B&W Hallerne, Jon Ola Sand looks troubled at first glance, but eventually comments that the whole area could be “so cool.”
Passed deadlines, no host city
As the days pass by, beyond the deadline, the Eurovision team appears more and more frustrated and stressed, unable to point at a host city. The Head of Show comments that he constantly changes his mind. The venue in Copenhagen carries so much risk that the team is finding themselves waiting for new information all the time. The days are very long and people are tired.
The delays also affect the creative aspects of the shows, as the team cannot start planning anything regarding content, stage design, and everything else, until the venue is selected.
But, the Executive Producer wants to make sure that the right choice is made. “We have to keep our cool, to not make the wrong decision, that can’t happen. We can’t make a decision we will regret in December.”
We will not leave until we have a host city
Copenhagen eventually takes full responsibility for completing the halls in time, to calm the Eurovision team at DR.
The team then put themselves in a room and say “we will not leave this room until we have a host city.” Jan Lagermand Lundme comments that B&W Hallerne invites grander ideas, and that choosing Herning would be without ambition. Kamilla Monies, the Head of Production, comments that Copenhagen is a bigger challenge, which she finds really exciting. Pernille Gaardbo fears that they will regret not taking the riskier choice.
The Eurovision team is thus arguing for Copenhagen, with the exception of one person: The financial manager of DR. “Do I think DR should throw itself into a completely untested venue, with all of the risks it carries, no,” he comments. But, majority rules.
The team can, however, only recommend. The final choice is up to the top management of DR and the DR Secretary General, Maria Rørbye Rønn. The rest is history, as Copenhagen was approved, winning the right to host the 2014 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest – announced on September 2.