Organisers of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam are planning for crowds of up to 80-per-cent capacity ahead of the event in May.

The song contest, which was cancelled in the Dutch city last year due to widespread lockdown in the Netherlands and across Europe, will “definitely take place” from May 18-22, organisers have confirmed.

They have outlined three possible scenarios for staging the show, having already ruled out what they describe as “normal”, which is defined at audience at 100-per-cent capacity, all participants being in Rotterdam and side events also taking place.

They will focus on Plan B, the most optimistic scheme, which proposes a socially distanced event at the Ahoy Arena with artists performing in Rotterdam, while realistically keeping downscaling options on the table for the weeks to come.

A final decision on the number of fans that will be allowed to attend and other matters will be taken by mid-April.

“The Eurovision Song Contest will definitely make its welcome return this May despite the pandemic but, in the prevailing circumstances, it is regrettably impossible to hold the event in the way we are used to,” said Martin Österdahl, executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest.

“The security, health and safety of all participants at the Eurovision Song Contest, from the crew to the artists, is our top priority. We are following international developments closely and continuing to explore and plan for three revised scenarios (B, C and D) first announced last autumn.”

Plan B would allow for up to 80-per-cent capacity at the 16,000-capacity Ahoy, with all or most participants in Rotterdam, some side events and facilities for up to 500 media visitors.

Everyone attending the contest would need to practice social distancing. Strict health and safety measures (including frequent COVID testing) would be in place at the venue. A protocol to protect artists, delegations, and crew on and off site would be adhered to. If there are any delegations who cannot travel to Rotterdam, their artists will perform “live on tape” with a recorded performance being used.

Plan C, defined as “a travel restricted Eurovision Song Contest”, would also see capacity of up to 80 per cent but without acts travelling to Rotterdam. The “lockdown” Plan D would take place without an audience and with all performances recorded remotely.

Österdahl added: “We’re grateful for the renewed commitment and backing from the City of Rotterdam and the ongoing support of all the participating broadcasters. We very much hope to be able to gather in Rotterdam in May and will do all we can in the coming weeks to achieve this.

“With an ever-changing situation we are taking our time to ensure that we can host the Eurovision Song Contest in the best and safest way possible.”

As there will be less capacity for an audience in Scenarios B and C, organisers have decided to refund all current ticket holders this month and later give them the option to repurchase tickets for the same show.

“The number of tickets available for each show will be dependent on government guidelines regarding social distancing,” organisers said. “[We] are keen to emphasise that, if circumstances allow, there will be opportunities to sell more tickets later.”

Eerste Divisie clubs NEC Nijmegen and Almere City were recently chosen to host test events on February 21 that will see fans return to Dutch football games for the first time since the end of September.

The two second-tier games will be part of eight events run under the banner of ‘Back to Live!’ The venture is being run by Fieldlab Events, a government-backed initiative which represents the events sector during COVID-19.

Image: Rotterdam Ahoy