Dates set for next Eurovision extravaganza in Norway

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) announced Wednesday that it will hold next year’s Eurovision Song Contest from May 25-29, at a location in the Oslo metropolitan area.

NRK is obliged to arrange the next Eurovision extravaganza after this year’s contest was won by Norwegian singer and musician Alexander Rybak and his team of Norwegian dancers. It’s considered an honor to arrange the event, even though it’s bound to be an expensive affair for the broadcaster in charge.

Now NRK needs to act relatively quickly to secure a site and start planning the huge event, which involves broadcasters and performers from more than 40 countries in Europe. NRK officials have come far enough to decide on dates: The two semi-finals will be held on Tuesday May 25 and Thursday May 27, with the grand finale set for Saturday May 29.The dates fall after two major holiday weekends that are observed in many European countries, Ascension Day and Whitsund. Nor will the event, traditionally held in May, collide with arguably the biggest holiday of the year in Norway, Constitution Day on the 17th of May. This year’s finals in Moscow fell the evening before the 17th of May, adding to the celebration when Rybakk won by a landslide.

His victory set off an immediate debate in Norway over where the next Eurovision Song Contest should be held. Advocates of support for Norway’s outlying areas called for it to be held in the northern city of Tromsø (which recently lost its bid for a Winter Olympics) while others argued that it could be held in the so-called Viking Ship arena in Hamar, built for speed-skating events at the Winter Olympics in 1994. Other cities like Tønsberg and Trondheim also put in their bids for the Eurovision event.

The European Broadcasting Union, however, demands use of an arena that can seat several thousand people and there’s also a need for thousands of hotel rooms. Even the capital of Oslo will be hard-pressed to accommodate all the performers, broadcasters and their back-up crews.

NRK officials confirmed, as expected, that the event will indeed be held somewhere in the Oslo area, but no arena had been chosen as yet. The most realistic alternatives are the Oslo Spektrum arena downtown, where Norway’s last Eurovision contest was held in 1995, or the new Telenor Arena in suburban Bærum, west of town. NRK said it would announce a venue after concluding various negotiations.