Eurovision defends against allowing Ukraine to host the 2023 contest

It was a rare moment of euphoria amid war: in May, a Ukrainian hip-hop band won the Eurovision Song Contest, the cultural phenomenon that helped launch Abba and Celine Dion and has been watched this year by some 160 million people. .

But joy quickly turned to disappointment when contest organizers announced that Ukraine was not safe enough to host the 2023 competition, an honor that usually goes to the previous year’s winner.

On Thursday, the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, tried to tame the backlash, saying in a statement that its main concern was “the safety and security” of the participants, which include artists from across Europe, 10,000 staff and members of the team, and a huge legion of dedicated fans are expected to travel to the event, many of them young.

But the outrage over the refusal to allow Ukraine to host next year’s event is palpable and shows little sign of abating. Oleh Psiuk, lead singer of the Kalush Orchestra, winner of this year’s contest, signed an open letter demanding that the decision be changed. And Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko expressed anger, saying Ukraine had rightly won the contest, offered security guarantees and was being denied an honor that would boost the country’s support on the global stage.

“Hosting Eurovision 2023 in Ukraine is a strong signal to the whole world that we support Ukraine now,” he said.

Organizers, however, refused to back down on their decision, stressing that they are abiding by their own rules, which state that the competition venue can be changed in the event of a catastrophe such as war. Allowing Ukraine to host the event, they added, would violate the requirement that the safety and well-being of participants be guaranteed.

The projection of Ukrainian culture on the international stage gained greater resonance at a time when the country is under siege and President Vladimir V. Putin said that Ukraine and Russia “are one people”. Ukrainian politicians, artists and musicians say it is more imperative than ever to expose the country’s cultural uniqueness at international events such as the popular song contest.

This week, a Ukrainian pianist was one of the winners of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas, one of the most prestigious competitions in classical music. And Ukraine recently selected Victoria Apanasenko, a professional model who volunteered to help children and the elderly during the war, as the country’s candidate in the Miss Universe 2022 pageant in Costa Rica.

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