Eurovision organizers confirmed on Monday that Britain would host the popular song contest in 2023 instead of war-torn Ukraine, which as this year’s winner would have traditionally hosted next year’s event but was ruled out because of safety concerns.
The announcement by the European Broadcasting Union made official what had been widely predicted since Ukraine won the event in May, when Britain finished in second place. Tim Davie, the director general of the BBC, said in a statement that the process of choosing a host city would begin soon.
“Being asked to host the largest and most complex music competition in the world is a great privilege,” he said in the statement. “The BBC is committed to making the event a true reflection of Ukrainian culture alongside showcasing the diversity of British music and creativity.”
Officials and artists in Ukraine protested last month when the European Broadcasting Union, said that Russia’s ongoing invasion meant Ukraine could not provide “the security and operational guarantees” needed to host next year’s event. Ukraine had offered three potential locations that it said were safe from the fighting: Lviv, in western Ukraine; the Zakarpattia region which borders Hungary and Slovakia; and the capital, Kyiv.
Martin Österdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor, said in a statement on Monday that the 2023 contest “will showcase the creativity and skill of one of Europe’s most experienced public broadcasters whilst ensuring this year’s winners, Ukraine, are celebrated and represented throughout the event.”
Representatives from UA:PBC, a Ukrainian broadcaster, will work with the BBC on the Ukrainian elements of the show, Eurovision said in a statement. Mykola Chernotytskyi, head of the broadcaster’s managing board, said in a statement that the event “will not be in Ukraine but in support of Ukraine,” adding that organizers would “add Ukrainian spirit to this event.”
Although the decision was reached with the Ukrainian government, at least one of the country’s past winners still appeared unhappy with Monday’s announcement. Jamala, who won Eurovision in 2016 with “1944,” a song widely interpreted by Eurovision fans as a comment on Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, said in an emailed statement that the decision still felt “a bit premature.”
“With this gesture, they are taking away the hope of Ukrainian people to win this unprovoked war in the near future,” she added.
Eurovision, which began in 1956, invites artists from countries across Europe, plus some farther afield including Australia and Israel, to compete to be voted the best act. Over 160 million people watched in May as Kalush Orchestra, a Ukrainian rap act, was crowned the winner.
Britain has hosted the event eight times, most recently in 1998. At least 17 cities in Britain have said they intend to bid host the contest, organizers said. The BBC and Eurovision organizers will together decide the host city, a spokesman for the European Broadcast Union said.
Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, said on Twitter that he and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine had “agreed that wherever Eurovision is held, it must celebrate the country and people of Ukraine.”
Alex Marshall contributed reporting.