The Danish host city dilemma
We will soon know exactly where Eurovision Song Contest 2014 will take place. An announcement is expected sometime in the early fall.
But the Danish national broadcaster, DR, is not facing an easy choice.
3 cities competing for the honor
After the withdrawal of Aalborg and Fredericia, 3 cities are left fighting for the massive undertaking of hosting the event.
The capital of Copenhagen, and host of Eurovision 2001, is bidding with a choice of 2 venues: The old B&W shipbuilding halls in the industrial district, and a massive tent erected in front of the headquarters of DR in the new Ørestad City. The 2001 venue, Parken, is no longer in play, as the management of the stadium decided to prioritize soccer over Eurovision.
In Jylland, the city of Horsens is bidding with their converted prison and the city of Herning is bidding with the modern Jyske Bank Boxen arena.
The Copenhagen option
At first, it would seem that the most obvious choice is to place the contest in the capital. The Copenhagen infrastructure is excellent: the largest airport in Scandinavia, a brand new subway, and buses running every 5-10 minutes. Hotel capacity is abundant. Sights are plenty and the cultural scene and nightlife is rich. In a country of only 5,5 million, Copenhagen is the only “big city” that Denmark can offer.
But the Danish victory has highlighted the embarrassing fact that Copenhagen remains without a large and modern multi-purpose arena. A flaw that was highlighted back in 2001, when Denmark last hosted the contest. The Copenhagen Arena project in the Ørestad City only just broke ground this year and won’t be finished until 2015.
Of its 2 proposed venues, the tent option at DR headquarters seems the most attractive. It would be situated directly next to the DR City subway station and the concert hall designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, with all of DR’s facilities close by.
The tent solution would utilize the so-called Kayam Valhalla Tent. These massive tents aren’t new to entertainment shows, as both the 2003 and 2004 MTV EMAs were hosted in one of these. The tent can be both cooled down and heated up. It would be able to host an estimated 10-15,000 people. Also, the white surface can be used for unique projections during the show.
In the tent plan proposal, the commentators would be placed outside the tent in temporary structures. The press center, accreditation office, and Eurovision Village would be put in smaller tents on the DR property. Inside facilities of the DR buildings would host the EuroClub, press catering, dressing rooms, make-up, and viewing room.
The second proposed venue is the B&W shipbuilding halls in the industrial district of Refshaleøen, across the water from the Little Mermaid. Today, this area hosts outdoor alternative cultural events, while the actual main hall is used for both storage and high-roping. The proposal uses the largest of the halls as the main venue for the TV-show and the smaller surrounding halls for various purposes like press center, catering, etc.
The halls are very raw and basic, with the need to establish the most basic of things, like fire exits. It would be able to hold an estimated 10,000 people.
The Copenhagen city proposal to DR mentions an ambitious bid on how to get the Eurovision buzz going in the large city.
All of central Copenhagen would be transformed into one large Eurovision Village, by establishing one mile of Eurovision activities, called Eurovision Fanmile, stretching from the central station, across City Hall Square, along the famous shopping street Strøget, finally terminating at Kongens Nytorv (King’s Square). The mile would be abuzz with concerts, competitions, interviews, jumbo-screen broadcasts, and pop-up events.
Quite surprisingly, the city of Odense on Fyn in the middle of the country, officially supports the capital as host city.
The Jylland option
In Horsens, a city of about 55,000 in the greater area, the local former prison would be the main venue. It is currently an outdoor concert venue, but a plan is to construct a sliding roof, much like the one built on Parken for the 2001 contest, that would cover the prison yard. The roof would slide over the old prison walls on top of extended glass walls. For the show, the yard would be able to host about 13,000 standing guests.
The prison venue would feature a pretty quirky addition. According to the mayor of Horsens, who is trying to sell the bid, the commentators would have to sit in old prison cells to free up space for the audience.
In Herning, a city of about 47,000 in the greater area, the city is gifted with a 3-year-old arena. The Jyske Bank Boxen, which is very similar in size to Malmö Arena, holds an audience of about 15,000. The arena is placed in the MCH Herning congress complex, with facilities for the press center, accreditation, etc. already in place.
In its short life, the arena has already hosted “X Factor” finals, the Danish national final in 2012 and international stars like Lady Gaga, Prince, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Rihanna, P!NK, Depeche Mode, and Bruce Springsteen.
The problems with Jylland
Both of the cities in Jylland share similar problems, especially once you start comparing to Copenhagen.
The Horsens venue is charming at best, but the Herning venue is ideal for the event. Unfortunately that is about all you can give them.
The large Copenhagen Airport accommodates several low-cost airlines, giving a more affordable access to the event. Once in the airport, the subway will take you straight to DR City in 20 minutes and to the city center in 15 minutes. The medium-sized Billund Airport in Jylland has a decent offering of European routes, but mostly through connections and thus more expensive. It’s also almost an hour away from Horsens and Herning by car, and more than 90 minutes by bus. There is no rail connection.
The low hotel capacity of the Jylland cities would require the event organizers to spread the delegations, press, and fans out into a large area of neighboring cities with up to 2 hours of public transport each way. Shuttle buses hired specifically for accredited individuals could cut that down by 30-45 minutes. But it’s a major problem, and it would completely water down the otherwise highly promoted point of having a small city full of Eurovision.
The cities are also very small and highly provincial, with few local attractions. Whether Horsens or Herning, it would be the smallest modern Eurovision ever by far. The event organizer would face a major challenge of simply entertaining people for 2 weeks, and if they live far away, they’re less likely to attend any events.
Many of the Jylland supporters have argued that Sweden successfully hosted Eurovision in smaller Malmö and not in Stockholm. But, Malmö is 6 to 7 times larger than Herning and Horsens and they don’t have a capital like Copenhagen just 20 minutes away as backup. The Herning Boxen arena is similar to Malmö Arena, but otherwise there’s no comparison.
The visitors or the viewers?
As it stands, DR is facing being forced into making big compromises, no matter what they choose. If you count the Horsens prison out of the game, you are left with an excellent city experience for the thousands of visitors with plenty of hotels, and a brand-new arena perfect for a state of the art TV-show. They just aren’t in the same place.
It comes down to a choice between wanting the best experience for the attending delegations, press, and fans, or the millions of viewers across Europe and the world.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how DR manages to solve their challenges. In an interview at the TV-festival for the television industry in Copenhagen last week, head of DR Entertainment and the 2014 Head of Show, Jan Lagermand Lundme said, “The most important is to be sure that we have the environment which will gather the Danes and all of Europe.”
Photos: DR, faheemhdk@flickr, Viva Arkitekter