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We might just be a few weeks away from getting to know where the 60th Eurovision Song Contest will take place! While we’re waiting, let’s take a closer look at the three candidate cities Graz, Innsbruck and Vienna. In order to give you a better picture of two of the contenders I interviewed dedicated Eurovision fans who live or work there. Regarding Vienna: Well, that’s where my personal bias comes into play – since I live there it’ll be myself who will introduce the city to you.
Let’s start off with Graz, the capital of Styria. With over 300,000 inhabitants it’s the 2nd largest city of Austria. I asked my friend Sigi (who has close ties to Graz) for first-hand impressions and his opinion about the city being a potential host of Eurovision next year. Let’s see what he thinks!
Can you tell us a few words about yourself?
I live in Leibnitz, a small town close to the Slovenian border, about 30km to the south of Graz. However, I spend most of the time in the apartment of my boyfriend in Graz and work there in the field of service design and media design. In my spare time I enjoy arts, sports, culture and of course music.
Since when are you an ESC fan?
I already watched ESC back in the 90s, but I didn’t like the songs then. I found the voting really exciting though. I’m a proper fan since 2003.
Why do you think Graz should host?
Graz has an amazing old town, it’s very open-minded and urban. Moreover, it was the European Capital of Culture in 2003. According to rumours Graz has the best beer and the best restaurants – and of course the best wine from beautiful Southern Styria. Besides that, most of the people in Graz can yodel, they wear their traditional outfits on Sundays and have pumpkin seed oil in their blood. 😀
What do you think about Stadthalle, the proposed venue in Graz?
Being the most modern hall in Austria it is really well-made and has excellent transport connections. Train, tram and bus stations are right in front of it. Together with the surrounding halls of the exhibition centre it would be an ideal venue for ESC. Press centre, accreditation area and various events can be accommodated there easily.
Do you think Graz has the required infrastructure to host an event like this?
Yes – Graz has an airport, four train stations, many hotels, youth hostels and guest rooms. In the federal state of Styria 11.3 million overnight stays were booked in 2013. If accomodation in Graz can’t be found anymore, there are anough possibilities in the surrounding region.
Are there any downsides to Graz hosting Eurovision?
I think that Vienna would be a better host and more representative of the country. But I can’t really think of any downsides right now. Possibly the high particulate matter figures.
What’s your favourite thing about Graz?
Schloßberg (Dom im Berg), the old town, the Kunsthaus and the Murinsel
Next up is the so-called ‘capital of the Alps’ – Innsbruck. According to rumours, ORF was quite impressed with their 20-page bid. I talked to Peter, an ESC fan who lives in the small city in the Western part of Austria. Let’s take a look at his feelings towards his hometown!
Can you tell us a few words about yourself?
I am a 34 old guy working and living in Innsbruck. I am currently studying for my Ph.D. in Business Administration besides working at the local university and at a social dance school, where I try to use many Eurovision songs during teaching to familiarize my students with my personal favorites of 59 years of history.
Since when are you an ESC fan?
The first contest I remember having seen is 1990. My parents recorded it on satuday night and it was great afternoon on Sunday to watch it all. I didn’t particularly remember any song at that time, but was excited about the voting and the final win of Italy. It was 1991 when I became a fan. I remember in the first years that I have tried to find participating songs from previous years, trying to get a complete list of previous winners and participants. One of the first things I did when I started using the internet years later was printing out lists of all years and trying to find the songs. I also began to connect with fans from other countries and lucky me one of my first “online” friends sent me all the songs starting from 1956 as mp3 on CD’s so that I was able to listen to all songs and find my personal favorites.
Why do you think Innsbruck should host?
I have only been to two contests so far: Düsseldorf and Malmö. The feeling is that in smaller cities, people tend to get more excited about the contest, it is not one of many different events, but especially in Malmö you could feel that everyone was enjoying the chance to show their city to all fans.
Furthermore Innsbruck was a long history of hosting big, international events. We had the Olympic Winter Games twice in the city, the Student Olympic Games, just to name a few. Therefore, Innsbruck is highly experienced from the professional point of view.
Although being a comparatively small city with only 125,000 inhabitants, Innsbruck is a young, vibrating city, home to appr. 30,000 university students and many bars and clubs catering for them;
What do you think about OlympiaWorld, the proposed venue in Innsbruck?
It is a modern venue that can be adapted to meet all needs of the eurovision. With two smaller halls adjacent to the Olympia World, also the press centre and other facilities needed, can be located just next door to the proposed venue.
Do you think Innsbruck has the required infrastructure to host an event like this?
With a small airport serving Vienna and Frankfurt airport as major destinations with many daily connections, located not far from the city centre and the big international airports of Munich and Zurich close by (2 and 3 hours respectively by car or public transportation), Innsbruck can easily be reached.
Innsbruck has more than enough hotels and rooms to stay. Other villages and cities close by all rely on tourism as one of their major source of income, therefore it should be possible for all to find a place to stay.
Are there any downsides to Innsbruck hosting Eurovision?
An issue that applies to all major cities trying to host Eurovision is that almost all hotels and hostels have either blocked their rooms or increased the normal price to try to gain the maximum profit possible. Many hotels in Vienna have doubled their prices per night during Eurovision week and you can see similar things to happen in Innsbruck and Graz as well. It’s a normal reaction of businesses to earn when possibilities are there, but this something that unfortunately can’t be changed – Eurovision is becoming more and more unaffordable for people who don’t have enough financial sources to pay for tickets and accommodation.
Being aware of the fact that the local public is a religious and conservative one, the LGBT is comparatively small, but the Eurovision might be a great incentive for all to also get heard – remember Conchita’s claim of the Unstoppables.
What’s your favourite thing about Innsbruck?
It is small but still vibrant, landscape is beautiful with mountains surrounding the city, air therefore is always fresh, but if you are looking for a metropolis, places like Zurich, Verona or Munich are just a short ride away.
Last but not least, let’s move over to Vienna, by far the largest city of the country. I’ve lived here for three years now and I must say I really enjoy being here. The combination of an urban and vibrant atmosphere, a large number of green spaces and stunning architecture makes it a very pleasant place to live in – and this is underpinned by the annual Mercer Quality of Living Survey: In their most recent ranking Vienna was placed first for the fifth year in a row!
Here’s a timelapse video of Vienna which gives you quite a good impression of the city:
[vsw id=”uZBisBatT14″ source=”youtube” width=”340″ height=”275″ autoplay=”no”]
Yes, we get it. Vienna is nice to live in. But is the city capable of hosting a massive TV show like the Eurovision Song Contest as well? I’d definitely say so! Vienna has great experience with large events such as the Life Ball, the world’s biggest AIDS charity event. Moreover, it is home to the UN headquarters which leads to countless political gatherings. Hotel capacity is certainly not a problem either.
The main issue Vienna seems to have – and that’s unfortunately not an unimportant one – is the venue itself. Wiener Stadthalle was built back in 1953 – and traces of age are clearly noticeable. The construction of a new multifunctional arena in Vienna is overdue but the municipal government keeps postponing plans. The arena itself would surely be a solid choice but the rather shabby appearance doesn’t exactly make it inviting. Then again, Denmark proved that a fantastic contest can even be held in an abandoned shipyard – and in the end of the day hardly anyone really cares about the aesthetics of the hall itself anyway.
Out of the three potential venues, Wiener Stadthalle has the biggest capacity as it accommodates up to 16,000 spectators. However, when it comes to the required surrounding areas, the halls in Graz and Innsbruck seem to have a clear advantage because they are simply more modern and state-of-the-art. When it comes to infrastructure, Vienna surely has quite an advantage. The two smaller cities in the running have their own airport as well but their number of international connections doesn’t compare to Vienna’s.
All in all, experiencing Eurovision in the city I live in would really be a dream come true. I give props to Innsbruck and Graz though – I’m sure they would be capable of hosting a great contest as well. I haven’t actually been to either of those cities but my interview partners Sigi and Peter did a really good job at making them seem appealing to me. But hey, bias or not, there’s no way the 60th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest shouldn’t take place in the capital!
Tell us what you think! Which city convinced you the most? Cozy Innsbruck and Graz? Or rather go big and choose Vienna?
Picture courtesy: John Müller, Koratien, Alex Holzknecht, eurovision.de