Eurovision lands at Fornebu

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), charged with arranging next year’s mammoth Eurovision Song Contest, has chosen a brand new arena on the site of Oslo’s former airport at Fornebu as venue for the finale next May 29.

The arena, which just opened last winter, will be re-named “Fornebu Arena” for the event, to satisfy European Broadcasting Union rules against commercial affiliation. It currently carries the name “Telenor Arena” to reflect the sponsorship of Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor, but the arena will be “bought free” of sponsorships during the weeks leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest finale. The arena is owned by investor Kjell Ulrichsen.The arena, located about a 20-minute drive west of Oslo in the suburb of Bærum, was chosen over the downtown Oslo Spektrum because it’s much bigger and also has vast outdoor areas around it to accommodate all the trucks and equipment needed to produce one of the largest television events in the world.

Performers from 45 countries will take part in the huge production, accompanied by all their support personnel, national broadcasters, and at least 2,000 reporters and photographers expected to make the trip to Oslo. Then come the thousands of Eurovision fans who likely will sell out the arena, which can accommodate 23,000 spectators when set up for concerts.

The arena at Fornebu “was built for big events,” said NRK’s TV project leader Hasse Lindmo. “We have a good framework for the production there.”Arena officials were overjoyed by the news, not least since the arena has suffered financially since it opened in February. It hasn’t attracted enough large concerts and its main use, the professional Stabæk Football Club of Bærum, has had financial problems of its own.

The huge contract with NRK to host Eurovision “is like an injection of vitamins for us,” the arena’s manager Einar Schultz, to nrk.no.

“This is just fantastic,” Schultz continued. “This is just the sort of production the arena was built for.”

Officials at Oslo Spektrum, which hosted the Eurovision Song Contest finals in 1995, said they weren’t surprised that NRK selected the Fornebu site and congratulated the arena for nabbing the contract. “We thought right from the start that we didn’t have the capacity for Eurovision anymore,” Spektrum’s manager Wiggo Schie told nrk.no. “We were actually surprised we were under consideration.”

Norway must organize the next Eurovision because this year’s was won by Norwegian musician and vocalist Alexander Rybakk.