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Open up, Rotterdam, you're hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest

In brilliant colors, Rotterdam's AHOY arena, will be the main stage for this year's Eurovision Song Contest. In brilliant colors, Rotterdam's AHOY arena, will be the main stage for this year's Eurovision Song Contest. Photo via Ahoy.nl

If you’re familiar with the media landscape of our times, you’re no stranger to the spectacle of competition programs. In recent memory this is a format that has brought us everything from top chef and top drag queen competitions, to survivalist naked people on seemingly deserted islands. 

Granddaddy to it all, however, is the far more enjoyable Eurovision Song Contest, taking place every year in a different host city since 1956. While similar to other talent shows like X-Factor, The Voice and even American Idol, the Eurovision Song Contest’s history is anything but ordinary.

Originating in the early days of television, the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) sought ways to entertain and unite what was then a divided post war continent. And in the golden age of television what better place to do it all than in peoples living rooms.

Taking that challenge head on, a committee was formed to tackle the effort with the result being something similar to another contest, Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival. Unlike the Sanremo’s festival, participating countries would get the chance vote for what they believe is the best song.

Proving to be a hugely successful formula, today, the song contest lives on with more countries than its founders could’ve ever imagined as the song contest extends itself past Europe to countries like Azerbaijan and even Australia. 

In the pas the event has brought us notable acts by like Enya and Olivia Newton John while also helping catapult the careers of ABBA and Celine Dion. The hope is no different with last year’s winner, Duncan Laurence, whose win confirmed the Netherlands as the host country this year. 


Pictured: 1974 Eurovision Song Contest winners, ABBA.


Pictured: 2019 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Duncan Laurence.


So what’s the big deal?  

Well if you live in the Netherlands, or Rotterdam to be precise, this is huge because the festivities will be close to home with the city expecting to draw 28,000 visitors (from outside the city alone). That’s a lot!

Marketing the event is this year’s slogan, “Open up”, a slogan that festival organizers believe is fitting for Rotterdam as it is city that is truly representative of diversity.

Now to some the music and spectacle is anything but exciting, but to a lot of people the event is an important one because it gives Rotterdam the opportunity to shine as the event not only brings together best talent across Europe, the Middle East and Australia, but gives the city and the country massive exposure.


The song festival, as some come call it, holds its own history in each of its participating countries. With each country having had and still showcasing their rising talent, some acts are more memorable than others. Of course with that also comes the occasional controversies. 

Take for instance the buzz around 2014’s winner Conchita Wurst, the drag performer who won audiences over with her song “Rise Like Phoenix”. To some her win lived up to the message the song festival continually promotes, that of diversity and freedom, while to the less tolerant it was sour win.

Participation in the song contest isn’t set in stone. Though starting out with only seven participating countries in 1956, there have been instances where countries have passed up their opportunity to participate. One such example was Ukraine in 2019, where there was some disagreement over the terms of its representing contestant. 

Last year’s event wasn’t short of controversy either, with the queen of pop Madonna, making an appearance to promote her new album and show her love for the festival. Her performance, however, came with political statement with two of her dancers appearing arm-in-arm with Palestinian and Israeli flags on each of their backs when the host country was Israel.

Recently, the latest eye rolling story, comes from Hungary, who is skipping this year’s festival, deeming the song contest “too gay” and not representative of the country’s family value programming.

The message...

All this, however, should not deter viewers from the real message behind the event – as it is truly a festival that the embraces and celebrates individual differences through the power of song and music.

This year will mark 40 years since the last time the Netherlands hosted the event, with Rotterdam winning the battle over where to host the event over Maastricht.

Boasting centrality, diversity and accessibility, Rotterdam will shine and that’s enough to smile and join in on the fun. 


[Stay tuned to  GayRotterdam.nl as we will certainly have more news on official viewing parties, festivities and more.]


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Last modified on zondag, 16 februari 2020 18:08

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