Eurovision song contest organisers announced on Wednesday (18 March) that this year’s edition – scheduled for May in the Dutch city of Rotterdam – is cancelled because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The annual contest has run interrupted since its debut in 1956.
The European Broadcasting Union, the alliance of public service media organisations that produces the show, and the City of Rotterdam will continue to discuss hosting the issue of hosting the song contest in 2021, but said “it is currently too early to discuss any specifics”.
“With the escalating spread of COVID-19 throughout Europe – and the restrictions put in place by the governments of participating broadcasters and the Dutch authorities – it is impossible to continue with the live event as planned,” said the organisers in a statement.
— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) March 18, 2020
The number of new cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands increased by more than 20% over the past 24 hours, reaching a total of 2,051 infections.
The organisers deemed the situation likely to “remain [too] uncertain for the coming months” to simply postpone the event traditionally held in spring. They also added that it would “reduce the amount of time the winning broadcaster would have to prepare for the following year’s competition.”
Holding the event behind closed doors without an audience was an option at one stage but local restrictions on gatherings and the increasing number of international travel bans made the idea “impossible at this time”.
On Sunday (15 March), the Dutch government announced restrictive measures such as closing schools, childcare facilities, eating and drinking establishments, as well as sports and fitness clubs until 6 April.
Compared to some of its neighbours, the Netherlands have taken a more lax approach to coronavirus, wanting to build “herd immunity” by exposing the least vulnerable groups to the virus while protecting the sick and elderly.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte outlined the plan to citizens in a televised address, the first of its kind since the 1970s oil crisis.
Bringing “delegations, artists and fans together in one place” is in the “DNA” of Eurovision, the organisers wrote, and any alternative solutions “would not be in keeping with our values and the tradition of the event.”
The decision on whether the artists already selected to participate will be able to step on stage will also have to be communicated at a later date.
We “feel confident that the whole Eurovision family, across the world, will continue to provide love and support for each other at this difficult time,” said the organisers.
For his part, Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand hoped that Eurovision would “come back stronger than ever.”
Eurovision is not the only musical event to fall victim to the outbreak. The organisers of the Glastonbury music festival announced on Wednesday that it will also be delayed until 2021.
[Edited by Sam Morgan]