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Last time UK hosted, in '98, Israel's Dana International won

UK to host 2023 Eurovision contest instead of Ukraine

Organizers promise ‘to add Ukrainian spirit’ to next year’s singing competition after European Broadcasting Union determines this year’s winner unable to safely host

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Members of the band 'Kalush Orchestra' celebrate onstage with Ukraine's flags after winning on behalf of Ukraine the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 14, 2022 at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin. (Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)
Members of the band 'Kalush Orchestra' celebrate onstage with Ukraine's flags after winning on behalf of Ukraine the Eurovision Song contest 2022 on May 14, 2022 at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin. (Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

The European Broadcasting Union announced Monday that the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest will be hosted in the UK, after Ukraine won this year’s competition along with the right to host the event next year.

The EBU, which organizes the contest each year, said last month that it did not see a way in which war-torn Ukraine could safely host next year’s competition, and was therefore holding talks with the BBC, UK’s public broadcaster, after the nation came in second place.

“We’re exceptionally grateful that the BBC has accepted to stage the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK in 2023,” said Martin Österdahl, the Eurovision executive supervisor, in a statement from the EBU.

Riding a wave of international sympathies following Russia’s invasion in February, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the top spot at the international competition in May. Generally, winning the contest grants the winning country the right to host the following year.

Mykola Chernotytskyi, head of Ukraine’s public broadcaster, expressed regret that his country would not be able to host next year’s contest, but said it would play a role in planning.

“I am confident that together we will be able to add Ukrainian spirit to this event and once again unite the whole of Europe around our common values of peace, support, celebrating diversity and talent,” said Chernotytskyi.

The EBU said that Ukraine’s public broadcaster would work with the BBC “to develop and implement the Ukrainian elements of next year’s shows.” Ukraine will also automatically qualify for the grand final of the 2023 contest, as past winners traditionally do. (The UK automatically qualifies for the final each year since it is a member of the “Big Five” countries that contribute greater funding to the EBU).

The UK will now work to select a host city for next year’s competition. While it has hosted the contest eight times so far, the most recent was in Birmingham in 1998. That contest was won by Israel’s Dana International.

Israeli singer Dana International performing at the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest held in Jerusalem. (GPO)

The competition has also been held in London four times, most recently in 1977. Many observers have speculated that Glasgow, which has never hosted the competition, could be a top contender this year.

When Israel won back-to-back Eurovisions in 1978 and 1979, it declined to host the 1980 competition for financial reasons, and it was instead held in The Hague.

Israel became the first country earlier this month to announce its entrant for the 2023 competition, revealing that it had selected pop star Noa Kirel as its representative.

Kirel, one of Israel’s most popular current singers, has since told media outlets that she is still considering whether to take part in the international song contest, which is 10 months away.

Israel has won the Eurovision four times: 1978, with Izar Cohen’s “A-ba-ni-bi,” 1979 with Milk and Honey’s “Hallelujah,” 1998 with Dana International’s “Diva” and 2018 with Netta Barzilai’s “Toy.” The 1979 and 1999 contests were held in Jerusalem, while the 2019 competition was hosted in Tel Aviv.

This year, Israeli representative Michael Ben David failed to advance to the final, the worst showing for Israel since 2014.

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