18 March 2020
As the Wuhan Coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads through Europe, and as cases rapidly jump in Netherlands, the idea of the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam proceeding in May looks increasingly unlikely. With Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announcing a “maximum control” strategy to deal with the virus, that’s flipped all existing conventions for dealing with the virus and how to deal with Eurovision as well.
In essence, the Dutch will live mostly as normal and not go into total lockdown. Currently there are lockdowns of schools and some businesses until 6 April, and all restrictions will be reviewed then. These restrictions have done nothing to contain the virus. Noting that most younger and healthy people barely get any symptoms, it’s hoped over the months a broad immunity develops among the population as more and more people catch and beat the virus, making it much less contagious. The most vulnerable people, the elderly and those with medical conditions, will be kept isolated and protected during this period.
The Dutch strategy is in contrast to the prevailing strategy for most nations, which is the lockdown strategy. You can already see some problems with this approach, as restrictions get tougher by the day without evidence on the ground changing much. One day it’s a restriction of gatherings to 500 people, a day later it’s 100, then it becomes 10. It seems like a case of no control.
Locking down cities, regions or even countries is no guarantee COVID-19 will be contained either. After 15 days, or 30 days, the virus could still be spreading, or reassert itself, and then what? You try again, and then what? The uncertainty will actually reduce confidence in the process and provoke civil disobedience, not to forget the catastrophic implications when large sections of the economy are shut down for longer and longer.
The Eurovision Song Contest for 12-16 May, 2020
When dealing with Eurovision, it’s important to note this a unique situation. It’s an international event and requires significant stage construction and other preparations. Sporting competitions that are continuing to run are domestic sports that involve little travel, and are played in existing, unmodified stadiums. With the recent Dansk Melodi Grand Prix that occurred behind closed doors, that was another domestic event, and the stage was already set up. The decision to close it to the public came at the last minute.
Least likely scenarios
1) Eurovision held in any form on the original dates. Even a closed door event has the problem of travel bans blocking artists from attending, and it’s pointless to build a stage for no fans. DMGP also showed the experience was a dreadful one without the fans.
2) Postponing until next year so the 2020 entries don’t miss out. The main problem here is it would wipe out the 2021 national final season. Why have a DMGP, Eesti Laul, Melodivestivalen or even Australia Decides if the winner doesn’t go to Eurovision?
Most likely scenarios
1) A postponement of a few months. The hope is COVID-19 is no longer a great concern and the event can run like normal, complete with an audience. Given the preparation time for Eurovision 2021, September is probably the latest time Rotterdam 2020 could be held. Already tennis’ French Open has been postponed to September, Euro 2020 for a year, and the Copa America to early next year.
2) Remote broadcast on original dates. This would involve entries performing at home in a local studio, and it all packaged for the normal broadcast. This could also be a contingency option if organisers decide for option 1 and a month out it looks unlikely to proceed.
3) Cancellation of Rotterdam 2020 altogether and Rotterdam would host next year. While it would be a new Eurovision with new entries, the EBU may allow the option for countries to send their 2020 entry if they like.
While we’re still waiting a decision, especially as the situation changes daily and so quickly, indications are the European Broadcasting Union and the Eurovision Reference Group are determined for Eurovision 2020 to happen. The question is whether they are fixated on the original dates in May. If so, a remote Eurovision is most likely. Otherwise, they’ll postpone for a few months. Personally, postponement is the best option.
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