Eurovision Song Contest is back - with strict coronavirus measures

  • The annual competition was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • This year’s theme is ‘Open Up’, encouraging people to share their thoughts and feelings with each other
Associated Press |

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Jendrik (L) from Germany records a clip during the first dress rehearsal for the First Semi-Final of the 65th annual Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: EPA

The Eurovision Song Contest is roaring back to life this year after last year’s cancellation, with coronavirus bubbles added to its mix of music and melodrama.

National delegations travelling to the Dutch port city of Rotterdam are abiding by strict measures to reduce the risk of infections, while the thousands of fans allowed to attend dress rehearsals, two semifinals and the grand final on Saturday will have to undergo testing to ensure they do not bring the virus into the venue.

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Executive producer Sietse Bakker is glad it’s going ahead at all.

“Organising the Eurovision Song Contest is always challenging because you have less than a year to organise one of the biggest and most complex events in Europe, but to do it in a pandemic is much, much more complicated,“ he said.

Ukraine's Go_A performs during the dress rehearsal on the eve of the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. Photo: AFP
Despite the pandemic measures, the contest that aims to unite Europe in song is continuing its 65-year tradition of upbeat fun.

Fans near the arena can get into the swing of the event early. Traffic lights at a pedestrian walkway outside the venue have been transformed so that a green figure dances to Abba’s iconic 1974 winning song Waterloo when it’s safe to cross.

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The immensely popular event mixes high camp - at rehearsals, Norway’s Andreas Haukeland, known as TIX, performed his song Fallen Angel in huge white wings - with lyrics encouraging inclusion and positivity while avoiding political messages.

The theme for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest is “Open up.” It was actually chosen before the pandemic derailed public life around the globe, but is now very apt as Europe begins to tentatively emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

2019 winner Duncan Laurence pictured during the dress rehearsal for the first semi-final of Eurovision at the Rotterdam Ahoy arena, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Photo: EPA

“We decided to keep the theme because, especially in these times, it’s important that we are open towards each other and that we feel the possibility to open up to one another, to show our true feelings, emotions and thoughts,” Bakker said.

The 2019 Dutch winner, Duncan Laurence, says on the event’s website that he sees music as a way of forging links. “That’s why we need the Eurovision Song Contest. To feel connected again.”

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Thousands of fans will be able to make the connection in person.

Each event will be open to 3,500 people - only about 20 per cent of the capacity of the arena - who must show a negative test result that is less than 24 hours old.

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