Next year in Jerusalem? Preparations for Eurovision demand a lot of work

Next year in Jerusalem! That was the rallying cry heard over and over again on Saturday night – and early Sunday morning – after Netta Barzilai brought Israel a win in the Eurovision singing contest.

Barzilai herself announced on stage “Next time in Jerusalem!” after accepting the prize, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Culture Minister Miri Regev echoed the call.

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While most countries host a bidding competition to decide on the host city, it has been quite clear that Israel won’t consider holding the event anywhere outside the capital. More often than not, however, the winning country will select the capital city, as it has been for the past five years.

When Israel hosted the competition in 1979 and again in 1999, it was hosted in Jerusalem.

So just where will the giant international contest take place? In both 1999 and 1979 it was held at the International Convention Center, which seats around 3,000 people. But over the past 20 years, the event has evolved into a much larger, more extensive operation, and the demands have risen.

According to the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the competition, host cities must provide a venue that accommodates around 10,000 spectators, an international press center for 1,500 journalists and hotel rooms for at least 2,000 people.

Those demands leave Jerusalem with two options: Teddy Stadium, which holds about 30,000 people, and the newly completed Payis Arena, which can seat around 15,000. Teddy Stadium, however, is open to the elements, which makes it a less attractive and potentially disqualified choice.

In an interview Sunday morning, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that no decision had been made yet on the location.

“We have two options, we will check what is best for the event,” Barkat told Channel 10 News. “It could be at the Payis Arena, it could be at Teddy… we’ll do what is necessary.”

Barkat, who will no longer be mayor when the competition is held, said it’s possible to temporarily cover Teddy Stadium.

“It’s possible. Whatever we need to do, we’ll do,” he said. “We’ll work it all out, it won’t be a problem.”

Another question mark is the much touted Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high speed railway, which was slated to open earlier this year but has delayed. Will the added pressure of an upcoming Eurovision cause it to open in time for the competition?

Another potential problem is the extensive week leading up the contest, which includes many rehearsals, including those on Saturday. The final of the competition is always held on a Saturday night, and at this time of year, Shabbat ends only around 8pm – the time the contest began in Lisbon this year. In 1999, some of the city’s ultra-Orthodox population were unhappy with both the transgender winner Dana International and the Sabbath desecration going on. But the competition still went on as planned.