CitySc(r)ape: A review of the “Battle of the Cities” debate

If you’ve been paying attention to the host city race for Eurovision 2017, just like we have, you’ll have noticed that a debate took place between all six cities currently in contention for getting the hosting rights. We watched the whole debate, and if you’ve accidentally forgotten about it and missed the debate; don’t worry, we didn’t and now, you can watch both the debate in its entirety and our live feed of what we thought of the debate! Here’s the full debate, in case you missed it, hosted by the fabulous Timur Miroshnychenko.

In the debate, representatives from each candidate city made their case for Eurovision to come to their city. These representatives were:

  • Dnipro – Borys Filatov, Mayor of Dnipro
  • Odessa – Pavlo Buhelman, Deputy Mayor of Odessa
  • Lviv – Andriy Moskalenko, Deputy Mayor for Development
  • Kharkiv – Igor Terekhov, Deputy Mayor of Kharkiv
  • Kyiv  Oleksiy Reznikov, Deputy Head of State Administration
  • Kherson – Volodymyr Mykolayenko, Mayor of Kherson

The show began with a minute silence for Petro Sheremed, who died this morning and was a famous journalist in Ukraine.However, once these formalities were done with, the real debate began. Here’s what we thought during the debate:

  • As with many of the Ukrainian national selection, there was a translation to English throughout the debate, which is actually very considerate, as Ukraine is one of the very few countries to recognise the foreign interest in the Contest. This was backed up by Miroshnychenko’s greeting to all the people who were watching the stream online – we love Ukraine like that!
  • We were then joined by Victoria Romanova – the head of the Ukrainian delegation – and she told us about the preparations already made for hosting a show like Eurovision. She talked about maintaining the high standard of the Contest and how they have had to learn about hosting the show, as they don’t host it every year. She also talked about the hosts of the show (getting a little ahead of yourself, Victoria, but it’s alright) and the preparations with the chosen city from the moment it gets picked. It’s quite nice to see that there has been a level of transparency, and we’re able to see the country preparing to host Eurovision. We then heard from Igor Tarnopolsky, Jamala’s producer, but who is also a part of the Orginasational Committee, and he essentially emphasised Victoria’s point about how the host city makes a big bit of a difference, so NTU and the EBU must choose wisely.
  • After a plethora of other people being spoken to (including Pavlo Shylko, who has aged incredibly well after hosting the first Eurovision in Ukraine back in Kyiv in 2005), we finally got to see the official requirements needed to be met in order to host the Contest: a stadium with a covered roof that can accommodate at least 7,000 people; to ensure that there is no other events to be taking place in the selected venue six weeks before the contest; a press centre with a capacity of around 1,500 journalists; to be able to include Euroclub and Eurovillages; an international airport to allow easy access for fans; sustainable infrastructure; no less than 600 volunteers who can speak a variety of languages; to guarantee safety for the Contest and its fans; suitable accommodation – no less than 1,000 rooms and the ability to show the culture of Ukraine. When that was done, we returned to talking to organisers, including the former President of NTU at the time of the first Eurovision in Ukraine.
  •  We were then given a lookback at the twelve previous years in the Eurovision after Kyiv hosted in 2005. They went through each edition talking about the host city, the arena and the bidding process for the Contest (if any). This gave us an insight into the selection procedure, and it definitely gave us an idea of how a host city is selected! At the end of that little VT, we were finally joined by Ruslana, who was clearly underdressed for a situation like this, turning up in very casual clothing, with hardly any makeup and hairstyles. Ruslana, you do know you’re supposed to be on national television, right? Right?? Ruslana talked about her Eurovision win and the rush of euphoria she felt when she won. She also joked about having to perform again in Istanbul, but had received a call from the Ukrainian President at the time, so she had to accept the call before performing her encore.
  • FINALLY, after 30 minutes of chitchat with the various organisers, we finally got started with the presentations from each of the host cities. Timur ran us through the procedure for how the presentations would take place: each city would present their proposals in five minutes and that there should be a promotional video that should not have lasted longer than 2m 30s. It should have included slide, photos and any other kind of material needed to promote the city’s chances of hosting Eurovision as well. It was all very regulated, but luckily, no proposal lacked any of these requirements.
  • The presentation draw was done live like a pot we would see at the Eurovision allocation draw, and first to set their proposal was the westernmost city in the bidding race – Lviv. The presentation started on a rather somber note, as Andriy Moskalenko talked about Leopols who have died recently in the conflict in the East of Ukraine – why would you bring that up? Anyway, the presentation formally began with Moskalenko telling a story about two friends who met during the Eurovision in Lviv after both going to Eurovision in the past ten years and never bumping into each other. This was illustrated by quite possibly some of the most childish drawings of people EVER. They went into further detail about these people: Yulia – a 35 year old travelblogger from Warsaw and Peter – an architect from London…..ehhhhhh, WHAT?! Yeah….. I have no idea either…..
    Wow……..Yulia and Peter hanging out in Lviv, so fancy…

    Moskalenko then cleverly dropped in the facts of the city into the story  – 10,000 hotel rooms available; daily trains to – and from – Poland, and the EU; an international airport for more fans; the fantastic infrastructure in the city through buses and trams and a proposed Fan Zone in a large park and will house 15,000 fans The Opening Ceremony for the Contest, will be held in the Opera House, according to the slideshow. The city also is to be celebrating the anniversary of the city’s establishment at the time of the Contest, so excursions around the city would be available. The proposal included the Arena Lviv, which would be the supposed venue for Eurovision if Lviv got the rights to host. The promotional video for the city was then shown and actually showed the REAL Yulia and Peter (thank god for that, cause the cartoon versions were freaking me out) going around Lviv and experiencing the romantic atmosphere the city has. It was a very intimate video – and because they were whispering in Ukrainian, the translators unfortunately had to whisper the translations at the same time to keep the ambience going, and it was soooo awkward. After it was over, we crossed live to Lviv to see what was going on. It was a very casual affair with lots of young people around waving their flags and being very enthusiastic about their city potentially hosting the show – how nice! (I’ll move onto the questions from other people from all cities later on in the article).

  • Next up was the capital – Kyiv – who came out with some rather boisterous exclamations almost immediately after coming on stage, saying that “Eurovision HAS to be in Kyiv! Anywhere else and it would be so surprising!”….way to make enemies after your first minute! He also said that if Eurovision was in two weeks, Kyiv would meet all the requirements for hosting the show; again, very boisterous! In contrast to Lviv, Kyiv opened up with its promotional video – featuring the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klitschko – showed both airports, the safe transport systems such as trams and trains and the culture of the city: murals on walls, large biking excursions, the religious churches and the complementing modernity of the city. They also included the requirements the city has: 2,000 hotels, with 23,000 bedrooms for fans and journalists/delegations, and 4 music venues that have a capacity from 10,000 to 70,000 people. After that, Oleksiy Rizemnov talked about the two potential arenas that may host Eurovision if Kyiv wins the bid: 1) the Palace of Sports. This is the most experienced arena to host Eurovision, as it hosted Eurovision in 2005 and the Junior Eurovision in 2009 and has a capacity of 10,000 people; and 2) the Kyiv International Exhibition Centre. Situated on the left bank of the Dnieper River, it has a capacity of 150,000 people, but is only being used as an alternative to the Palace of Sports. The press centre would be the Olimpiyskyy Sports Complex and will within it contain 350 monitors that will help the journalists see the happenings in the desired arena. The Eurovillage and the Euroclub will be held next to the press centre and thus will be close by for Eurovision fans to get in on the fun without going off to the outskirts of Kyiv. The Opening Ceremony will be held in Sofiavska Square, which will also host one of a proposed five Fan Zones, where the shows will be broadcast on giant screens. It was a very strong bid by the capital city and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the city that makes it to the end..but, was it just me, or did Oleksiy look a bit like Serhat?? Is that just me?
  • After Kyiv’s presentation, we had a visit from Ukraine’s Minister for Culture, Yevhen Nyshchuk. He was asked many questions about the Government’s hand in helping the Eurovision being staged in Ukraine. He responded that things are happening now and that he is optimistic that NTU will be able to put on the best show possible, with the support of the Ukrainian government. He also dispelled the rumours that Eurovision will not take place in Ukraine next year. Well, this is also coming from the same guy who stated there was no suitable arena in Ukraine to host such an event, so I might need to take his optimism with a pinch of salt, but it seems that Mr. Nyshchuk may have turned over a new leaf, and at least he has some faith in his country!
  • Following Yevhen’s “little” speech, it was Dnipro‘s turn to take to the stage. As with the city before him, the Mayor of Dnipro – Borys Filatov – began his presentation with the promotional video for the city. It tried to erradicate the stigma attached to Dnipro’s apparent “little chances” of hosting the Contest and included all the information required of them: the city is ready to invest 500 million hryvnias to host Eurovision; the willingness to improve infrastructure of the city; 80 hotels with over 3,000 rooms available to the fans and journalists; the Contest will be held in the Meteor Stadium – to be renamed the DniproEuroArena, which has a capacity of 9,500 people. The arena will also host the Euroclub and the Press Centre. The Eurovision Village will be likely staged either in the city centre or on the banks of the Dnieper River, to give fans more of a feel for Dnipro. Security will be guaranteed by 1,000 personel who will watch over the areas involved with the Contest, which was a concern for many fans due to the location of the city. Filatov went on to say that if the recent decentralisation of the country is to have any effect on Ukraine, the Contest should be held somewhere outside of the capital city – to show a different side to the country we know – a political point, he conceded, but one they could use to move forward. Making a point about the arena, Filatov also mentioned that only Dnipro and Kyiv have a selected venue which doesn’t need a roof constructed. He admitted that the arena does need some refurbishment, but this can be started if/when the city gets selected to host Eurovision. He also stated that Dnipro’s airport is capable to hold the number of fans coming to see the Contest, and that the number of hotels should be enough to suffice the number of people set to go to Ukraine. We then went live to Dnipro (like Lviv), where the presenter in Dnipro – along with hundreds of fans on the banks of the Dnieper – congratulated Borys for his presentation and tried to make their case as a desirable city for the Eurovision..Whether or not it pays off remains to be seen.
  • Fourth to the podium was Odessa, and whose Mayor – Hennadiya Trukhanova – was supposed to turn up, but….didn’t, for some reason, so instead we got someone else – Mr. Buhelman. He began his presentation in English, which for us foreign viewers was fantastic as it was reaching out to the wider Eurovision community, but after a prompt from Ruslana to speak in Ukrainian, that dissipated quickly and things just returned to normal……or not, as he began to rap about Odessa minutes afterwards, earning both applause and snickers/disdain from the audience. After the courageous/cringeworthy performance of the representative, the promotional video was shown, showing all the various spots in Odessa of which its best known – most loudly, the Opera House and the Harbour to which Odessa was built on, not to mention the ornate churches and beaches that are famous on the shores of the Black Sea.However, the city’s video was more of a tourist video rather than showing the fact, hence the second part of the presentation was all about Odessa’s ability to host the Contest. They included the expression of other singers’ interest in Odessa hosting the Contest; featuring Laura Fabian and even Jamala herself. He went onto talk about the transport in the city with the town being the biggest transport hub in Ukraine thanks to its strategic location – ranging from its international airport to its harbour which is one of the largest in Europe. It was confirmed also that Odessa would stage the Contest in the Chornomorets Stadium in the city centre, but on the coast of the Black Sea, with a capacity of 10-12,000 people, halving the total normal capacity altogether. Regarding the roof, Buhelman stated that the city of Odessa, along with a third party, would gather the funds to put a roof on the stadium should Odessa win the bid. The press centre will be situated next to the arena, to allow easy access between the two. It’s likely that the Opening Ceremony and all official events with the EBU will be held in the Opera House, with Fan Zones and Eurovillage being held in the Spartak Arena and the Ukrainian equivalent of Gamla Stan respectively. There were also over 2,000 applications for volunteers to help with the organisation of the Contest. Soon after the ending of the presentation, we went live to the Odessa Film Festival to see hundred of fans gather in the city centre and show why they think the south of Ukraine would make a great home for Eurovision 2017 due to its multiculture and international aspect and history.
  • After Odessa, we traveled northeastwards and to Kharkiv, who I wasn’t sure if their representative (who was supposed to be Mayor of Kharkiv, but had to pull out after having surgery) was speaking in Ukrainian or in Russian, but judging by the fact it was for Ukrainian television, I’d assume he’d be speaking in Ukrainian…but I’m open to being corrected! Anyway, he started his presentation in a similar vein to his competitors and declare that he was sure that Kharkiv was going to win the bid, despite valiant efforts by the other five cities. By now, we were starting to get a little bored hearing that sentence – even the translating commentators brought up that it was the fifth time we had hear such a brash statement…like, do something different! Igor Terekhov did recognise that his city was one of the last cities to formally bid to host Eurovision, but this was due to the careful deliberation of the city to find the most suitable venue for the Contest, and to sort out all the other criteria that must be met. He claimed that the one city that could spend the minimum amount of money without affecting the city’s personal budget – with “not a penny” being spent on the infrastructure for the Eurovision, as it’s already available in Kharkiv. The city has formally bid the Metalist Stadium for the Contest. It was at this point the cameras pointed at Nyshchuk and Ruslana, who clearly looked bored and/or losing the will to live, so they were obviously being bombarded with information. Surprisingly, we had neither slides, nor a promotional video from Kharkiv and very little information regarding the use of transport and hotels and accommodation of the fans, journalists and delegations, which might have jeapordised their chances, as they didn’t explain all the requirements clearly. After his speech, we were invited by Terekhov to the main Fan Zone in Kharkiv, where a giant stage had been built where a cultural parade was taking place, and fans gathered to support their city in hosting the Contest, with some people being interviewed as to why Kharkiv should get the Eurovision.
  • Finally, we got to hear from the smallest city vying to host the show – Kherson. The Mayor of Kherson – Volodymyr Mykolayenko – began his presentation by stating the fact that Kyiv has basically become the face of Ukraine: most major events take place in Kyiv and that nothing else gets to go further than the capital in many cases. He also mentioned that tourism is normally focused on the other competing cities for the Eurovision. He mentioned that Kherson was a small city of which Ukraine is also made up of and they get to see everything happening, but in their own world and they stressed that they wanted to let people into this world of a small city and the best way to do this would be hosting the Eurovision. He threw some “shade” at Kharkiv, when he said he was surprised by their declaration that they don’t need to spend money on infrastructure; Mykolayenko exclaimed that if Kherson won the bid for Eurovision, they would be able to build Las Vegas in Kherson with the funds available to them. They also sang the praises of the various places they could host Euroclub and the Eurovillage in the city, with the numerous volunteers helping the Contest become one of the best in the history of Eurovision. An added political aspect was seen as well as Kherson prided itself in accepting the displaced Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians after the annexation of Crimea two years previously. We then got to see the promotional video for the city, which showed students and other young people going around the city and exploring the architecture and other points of interest in Kherson. After this, we crossed live to Kherson to see the reception and the fans supporting their city, and there weren’t as many  fans as in other cities, but those who did turned out in the dark to show the support for Kherson’s presentation. They asked NTU to take a chance and not to go for the obvious choice. Behind the presenter in Kherson were all diverse people; Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Russians also! There was still no official information given regarding the arena Kherson would use, or the accommodation problems the city would face, but I guess we have to wait and see where they put it if they do win the bid.

So, there were – obviously – questions asked for each of the cities in contention to host the Contest. We’ve posted each one below in bold and the responses in italics.

  • Lviv – What’s still missing in Lviv that you need and can get within the next ten months? Every city in the world has their difficulties, but Lviv has cool people and a wonderful atmosphere, which is more important. Infrastructure (incl. hotel rooms) and Arena? Lviv Arena; we are already working with technical groups to achieve all the standards required for hosting the Contest (i.e. the roof). There are 10,000 rooms across a variety of hotels in Lviv from four to star hotels. Ruslana also mentioned the unfinished arena in Lviv that was also for consideration and that it is also a suitable candidate arena for Lviv to use should the Arena-Lviv not suffice. This was not a question, but a direct statement.
  • Kyiv – Is it possible to have everything in place in the Palace of Sports, given that two Eurovision events were held there without the arena being renovated? I have spoken to the experts, and the question is rather to the EBU, as it is up to them to formally declare it the venue once it meets the technical requirements. Will you be able to book the Palace of Sports for the event, due to the rumours that other events are taking place in the six weeks beforehand?  There are no rumours; there is an ice hockey championship planned for that time, but hosting the Eurovision is, for us, a lot more important. So we will likely postpone the Ice Hockey Championships, and when Ukraine wins Eurovision again, we can host the Championships after the Contest. Which city do you consider to be the biggest competition, and what will the co-operation between that city be? Every city can put on a fantastic show, so I also think everyone has a good chance, so I expect Kherson to be with us in the final two cities!
  • Dnipro – 500 million hryvnias is a substantial amount for funding the Contest. How much of it is going to infrastructure and how much is going to the Contest? Of course some of it is for infrastructure. We think around 150 million hrynias is to go for the territory around the airport. 100 million hryvnias will be allocated to infrastructure and around 200 million hryvnias be allocated to the security of the Contest and the city. It’s all interconnected. If we win, we will also receive State funds for the refurbishment of the Arena. 
  • Odessa – Odessa is a tourist hotspot and many hotels will have their holidays booked around the time of the Contest. How will you accommodate the fans and journalists and delegations? We have over 200 hotels and many rooms are booked, but our port hosts around 5 liners, which are essentially “hotels on seawater”. So with an added 15,000 people able to stay in Odessa, this offers an alternative type of hotel rather than the one on land, but also on sea.
  • Kharkiv – How will you guarantee security for the city while you are hosting Eurovision? I realise that Kharkiv cannot be in competition with other cities in some questions, but with security, Kharkiv can guarantee total security and nobody has managed to make the situation in Kharkiv unstable. People come to Kharkiv to live in it and although the price was high, Kharkiv is now leading in investments and standard of living. Kharkiv is ready to guarantee the safety and security of the city for fans for the Eurovision.
  • Kherson – No questions were given to Kherson.

Who were the winners and losers in the debate?

All six cities gave their best presentation in the debate as they had to try and convince both NTU and the EBU to choose them to host the largest non-sporting event in the world. Of the six cities, the one city that really made its mark was Odessa. The city really put on a strong bid and they were able to show that Eurovision on the South of Ukraine could be a viable option. The question of the roof was answered very technically and they ensured that the roof would be built in time for the Contest’s six week deadline. Also, the opening of the presentation in English and the rap has shown off the youthful side of Odessa and the determination of the city to welcome the fans to Odessa next year. Lviv and Kyiv were normal – they showed off everything that we already knew and it’s likely that it’ll be them to fight it out from Friday (22nd July). However, we best not rule out the Odessa bid as well, so I’d put a safe bet that the two cities left in the running will be either Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. So, to confirm, Odessa, Lviv and Kyiv were the winners. As for the more unfortunate cities, I’d have to say that Kharkiv, Kherson and Dnipro lost the debate. Dnipro fell victim to skepticism regarding the capacity of the arena (a mere 9,500 people) and despite the amount of money they’re willing to invest into the Contest and infrastructure, it all came down to basically filling one arena with everything Eurovision – Euroclub;press centre and the stage? It’s all a bit too much. Where Kherson and Kharkiv fell down was the lack of information given about the possibility of accommodation. Kharkiv said they were ready to guarantee the safety and security of the Contest, but what’s the good in the safety of the fans and journalists if they’ve got nowhere to go? Kherson fell at the same hurdle, being unable to say whether they have an acceptable number of hotel rooms and of course, no mention of an arena…so where are we going to host the Contest if Kherson wins it? We have no clue…

So, tomorrow we’ll find out which two cities have made it to the last phase of the bidding race..Who will it be? We’ll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, we’d love to hear your reactions to the debate! Did you watch the show? Which presentation impressed you the most, and who’s out the door straight away? Which two cities do you think will make it to the last phase? Where would you like Eurovision 2017 to be held? Be sure to let us know your opinion by commenting below! And don’t forget to vote in our poll as well as to where you think will host the Eurovision next year. The poll closes very soon, so be sure to make your voice heard and vote! We’ll compare your results with that of the actual city race, so if you want your favourite city to win the poll, be sure to vote! And make sure to stay tuned to ESC Views as we cover the 2017 host city battle!

UPDATE: On the 22nd of July, we were left with Odessa, Kyiv and Dnipro in the running to host Eurovision. As a result, we have opened another poll to see what you think of the final three cities. The poll still closes on August 1st at 10:00 GMT, so be sure to make your voice heard in the last phase!!!

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