On Saturday 23rd May Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest thanks to the performance of ‘Heroes’ by Måns Zelmerlöw. This means Sweden has the first option to arrange the Song Contest for next year, just three years after their southernly town Malmö hosted the competition. In this article our Stockholm-based reporter Ben Robertson outlines some of the possible options that host broadcaster SVT have at their disposal.
Firstly, We Are Coming To Stockholm Next Year
Barring a change of miraculous proportions we would believe it is safe to book flights and hotels already in Stockholm if you are that way inclined. The first reason we believe this is that there is big interest from the capital city to have hosting rights, perhaps still bitter about losing out to Malmö for the 2013 Contest. During the Melodifestivalen tour this year each city holds a swish Opening Party before rehearsals start in the arena. Hosting the Stockholm Opening Party, President of the City Council Eva-Louise Erlandsson Slorach spoke to the audience welcoming the pop stars and press to the capital city. In that speech, made before the Final of Melodifestivalen, she made it clear that ‘we would like to host the big Eurovision’.
It is amazing that Stockholm basically started it’s bidding process for Eurovision 2016 well before the Swedish song was selected and before it was made the heavy favourite it was throughout the voting period. Stockholm still as a city feels hard done by to be overlooked for the 2013 Contest, when the combination of new, untested stadiums, a concurrent Ice Hockey World Championship and an enthusiastic and innovative bid from Malmö helped it take the crown. If such a strong desire to host is already at such a high level of local government expect a detailed bid to be tabled from Stockholm this year.
The competition from other places in Sweden would be weak. Malmö produced a very cost-effective and efficient Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, but with the Song Contest potentially hitting the Öresund region for three years in four means it is no surprise they are not entering a bid this time. Gothenburg is sadly an unlikely bid city as well. The Scandinavium arena used for Melodifestivalen and for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1985 does not possess a strong enough roof to cope with the vast array of lighting rigs required for a modern Song Contest on this scale. Furthermore the main football stadium in Gothenburg, Ullevi, is not covered by a roof. Given that the Christer Björkman has already revealed the budget for Eurovision this year will be tight, a major change like this is unlikely to be possible in the monetary constraints.
Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg are by far the three biggest cities in Sweden, with Malmö the smallest at a population hitting 300,000. After Malmö, the next biggest city is university town Uppsala which is half as big. Given how Malmö was so swamped a substantial number of Eurovision fans preferred to commute over from Copenhagen it seems highly unlikely that any other city would be able to facilitate a bid, despite rumoured interest from Karlstad and Umeå. Given the strength of local support to host the Song Contest and the lack of competition it would be stunning if Stockholm was not hosting Eurovision next year.
There Are Three Possible Options To Host
Stockholm is awash with well known stadia, and there are three obvious mainstream locations that could be used. In the south of the city Globen, and the nearby Tele2 Arena, would be viable locations for the Eurovision Song Contest, whereas the Solna-based Friends Arena, Sweden’s national football stadium, would also be appropriate. It would be unlikely for Sweden to consider an alternative to these as the stadiums in question are reliable locations (make sure please nobody gives them an idea of re-branding a shipyard). We will outline each of these mainstream alternatives and some positive and negatives about each one.
Option 1: Globen
Eurovision fans will recognise Globen as the host venue for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000. Completed in 1989, the world’s biggest hemispherical building has been constantly in use for some of the biggest concerts and events in Stockholm. In 2013 it was Stockholm’s venue for the World Ice Hockey Championships when Malmö hosted Eurovision and in the past year acts such as Katy Perry and Kylie Minogue have played there.
Globen is the easiest location of the three to get to. From the Globen stop on Stockholm’s efficient underground stop it is only a short 3 to 4 minute fully-pedestrianised walk.
When booking Globen you can get access to many of the other parts of the complex, including concert hall Annexet and ice hockey arena Hovet. These areas would be perfect in combination with Globen for providing possible space for Press Rooms, Accreditation Centres and all the usual trappings of a Eurovision venue
In terms of size and shape Globen would fit into the current trends of the Eurovision Song Contest being an arena event. With a standing area at the front you would expect a Globen Eurovision Song Contest to be in the 10,000-15,000 people mark.
Cost is likely to be lower than the other venues meaning that in terms of financial risk it would be the safest possible Eurovision to host.
It’s a venue SVT, Sweden’s state broadcaster, knows very well, having hosted not just Eurovision but Sweden’s selection process Melodifestivalen for over 10 years, most recently in 2012.
It’s not booked for anything in next April and May at the moment.
The size may be a concern for some, with the Globen venue being much smaller than the other Stockholm options. Stockholm one would anticipate would have a ticket demand equally or possibly exceeding that of the Vienna Contest which caused many ticketing frustrations.
Option 2: Friends Arena
Whilst technically in neighbouring district Solna (but still in Stockholm county) a bid from Friends Arena would be expected based on the their recent hosting of Melodifestivalen for the last three years. Hosting the final of that competition with attendances around the 30,000 mark, Friends Arena would be a welcome choice from many Eurovision fans.
Being the largest location would make it an attractive option, with the opportunities to increase tickets sales and fan packages being helpful to positive promotion of the Song Contest. This may have the knock on effect of having more visitors come to Sweden’s capital city next year.
It’s also a location with plenty of extra resources that could be used. There is plenty of space around the arena for some of the extra trappings associated with the Eurovision Song Contest, and the afterparty for Melodifestivalen takes place deep in the bowels of Friends Arena and it would also work well for Eurovision.
The brand new Mall of Scandinavia is still scheduled to open this September (and will be the, um, biggest mall in Scandinavia). Most of the walk from Solna Station to Friends Arena will from then be possible through a new shopping precinct. This is likely to make the area significantly more attractive than it is currently.
Friends Arena is a well known location for an SVT show not just through Melodifestivalen, hosting the final for the past three years, but also coverage of the arena’s Opening Ceremony which featured a lovely orchestra underneath the stage.
The sound acoustics of Friends Arena have been often criticised, meaning that especially on the 3rd tier of the stadium the volume and balance can make the show quite difficult to follow. Bands such as Iron Maiden have previously had fans complaining about the sound quality.
There would likely be some political spats between Solna Town Council and Stockholm City Council about the hosting rights to the Contest. It would be very clear that Solna alone would not have the infrastructure to host the event themselves, they would want some formal recognition that the Contest was there and not in Stockholm itself. In Melodifestivalen this falling out has already been in existance, Stockholm’s City Hall pulled out of hosting the Opening Party for the Final between 2013 and 2014.
Transport to Friends Arena is not great. An underground extension to meet up with the stadium arena will not be complete until 2022, meaning there are a few unsavoury options available to visitors. Underground stops Solna Centrum or Näckrosen currently require a 15 to 20 minute walk, and the commuter train station at Solna is only marginally closer at 800 metres away. From the North of the city SL, Stockholm’s public transport company, runs buses that go directly to the arena from the transport hubs.
Furthermore being located on the blue underground line to Akalla gives less direct options for hotel connections for fans and press, with most of the connecting areas being residential. It’s likely many travelling fans would need to change trains at Central Station which is ten minutes away.
The large size may be a worry for some, but not particularly a problem. Melodifestivalen’s 30,000 attendances are usually halved for the Jury and Family shows, and a real concern would be if there was enough bite to give atmosphere to the midweek Semi Finals. One would expect that the top tier would be closed for the Semi Final shows perhaps to help. However with Friends Arena being the full width of a football pitch means that a standing area around the stage may not work like it does in a modern Eurovision competition. With the increased size will likely come increased costs as well meaning more risk for SVT.
Football team AIK play their home matches in the arena and would need to be relocated for the short term, or arrangments made to play away matches during the window of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Option 3: The Tele2 Arena
The newest stadium in Stockholm located only a short stagger from Globen, the Tele2 Arena. Completed in 2013 it is a 30,000 seater football stadium, complete with roof, with up to 40,000 people able to attend for concerts of stars like Avicii and The Rolling Stones.
This is likely the Goldilocks venue for SVT and the EBU in terms of size, which we would expect would be around 20,000-25,000 mark for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Transport options are good, with it being only a couple of minutes further than Globen to find on your merry adventures.
Acoustics in the Tele2 Arena have received positive compliments for its acoustics in comparison to Friends Arena. The usual issues of atmosphere do arise though.
The large Colosseum Nightclub, with space for 2,500 people, is directly below the arena and would likely make a fantastic EuroClub venue.
It’s a venue that has previously been used for some concerts, but has rarely been used by SVT themselves. The lack of on the ground knowledge may be of some worry as it means camera positions and equipment logistics may be unknown.
It’s a football stadium for not just one, but two teams in Sweden’s top tier, Djurgården and Hammarby. Whereas Djurgården would likely want to move back to Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium for a short term visit they would need to improve the safety regulations in the stadium to do so. Relocating resurgent Hammarby who are attracting sell out crowds would also be problematic.
Is There A Best Alternative?
Stockholm is lucky in that it has a collection of stadiums that many host cities would dream of having available for a bid. Now comes the hard part of working out which stadium offer is the most viable for Stockholm to choose from. Part of it is cost, and the perception of risk, and also the balancing out of different political factors at play. Above even the transport issues, I would see Friends Arena as an unlikely choice in this race, after all it is likely to be more expensive and also means working with another Council area than your own for lots of the collective arrangements. This isn’t to mean Friends Arena would be a bad choice, but there would need to be lots of collective desire and agreements to make it a viable alternative.
There are no real negatives to a Globen hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest. The venue may be the oldest but still works as a reliable venue and certainly the much older Stadthalle did the job this year. If scaling back costs and keeping it simple is the aim then Globen works. It was Sweden with the Malmö Contest who did begin the scaling back of Eurovision, including things such as standing areas which altered the atmosphere and also lowered the cost requirements.
However Stockholm is a city that legitimately may want to increase capacity and showcase itself as a big venue for events in the future. The Tele2 arena might provide the suitable and safe outlet for that passion. The fact that Eurovision is so well loved here means that a Stockholm Contest could increase capacity with an educated risk, and the Tele2 (which would go back to the brand name of Stockholm Arena) would be an outlet for creativity for a SVT team that might be looking to improve on their 2013 success.
The biggest factor in this process is going to be desire. Which arena wants it more and which can offer the best chance of a easy-to-run yet innovative show? Stockholm can count itself lucky to be blessed with these varied hosting options that would all love to be used for a month and a half next spring.