ROTTERDAM – The Eurovision Song Contest 2020 was planned to be the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. The contest would have taken place in Rotterdam, Netherlands, following the country’s victory at the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, Israel, with the song “Arcade” performed by Duncan Laurence. This would have been the fifth time that the Netherlands hosted the contest, the last edition having been the 1980 contest. The contest would have been held at Rotterdam Ahoy. It was originally scheduled to consist of two semifinals on 12 and 14 May, and a final on 16 May 2020. Forty-one countries would have participated in the contest Bulgaria and Ukraine would have returned after their absences from the 2019 contest, while Hungary and Montenegro had confirmed their non-participation after taking part in the previous edition. All forty-one competing artists and songs were confirmed by the relevant broadcasters by early March 2020.
However, on 18 March 2020, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced that the event would not take place because of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic. This marks the first time in the contest’s 64-year history that it has been cancelled. Following its cancellation, the organising European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is discussing potential carryovers for the 2021 contest, such as host city and participating artists, with various parties. Following the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020, the EBU and its Dutch Members NPO, NOS and AVROTROS they are producing a new show, Eurovision: Europe Shine A Light, to air in place of the Grand Final on 16 May.
Already prior to the 2019 contest, when bookmakers expected Duncan Laurence to win, several Dutch cities, including Amsterdam, The Hague and Maastricht, announced their intent to host the contest should The Netherlands win. A spokesperson for NPO also stated that the broadcaster had a rough plan for how they would select the host city in the event of a Dutch victory. When Laurence won the contest, mayors of various municipalities immediately began lobbying Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, through text messages. Public figures, including Laurence, Esther Hart, Getty Kaspers and André Rieu, publicly voiced their support for their respective favourite host cities.
The hosting broadcasters launched the bidding process on 29 May 2019. In the first phase of this process, cities were to formally apply to bid. Nine cities—Amsterdam, Arnhem, Breda, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Hague, Leeuwarden, Maastricht, Rotterdam, and Utrecht—did so and received a list of criteria they and their venues needed to meet on 12 June 2019. Initially, Zwolle had also considered launching a bid to host the event but the city ultimately decided against doing so because it deemed its venue, the IJsselhallen, to have unsuitable proportions. Enschede could have been a potential host city as Enschede Airport Twente considered bidding to host the event in its eleventh hangar, however, it later learned that Enschede’s municipality executive board had decided against financially supporting such a bid.
From this point on, these nine cities had until 10 July 2019 to compile their bid books to demonstrate their capabilities to host the contest. Further cities were still able to join in on the bidding race by applying prior to the deadline. During this period, four cities withdrew. Amsterdam could not host the contest because it was preoccupied with hosting other events during the contest’s time frame. Breda dropped out due to financial concerns. Leeuwarden ceased bidding due to the insufficient height of the ceiling of its WTC Expo. The Hague dropped its bid because both of its potential venues were unsuitable for the event. The local Cars Jeans Stadion football stadium would have been large enough but lacked a roof, and installing such a roof would have made the bid financially unviable. Its other option would have been spanning a tent over the Malieveld field, but after reviewing the hosting conditions, this option fell out of favour. Following its withdrawal, The Hague turned to support Rotterdam’s bid instead.
The five remaining cities—Arnhem, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Maastricht, Rotterdam, and Utrecht—delivered their finished bid books to a ceremonial event held in Hilversum on 10 July 2019. The hosting broadcasters reviewed the bids presented and on 16 July 2019 announced that it eliminated those for Arnhem, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Utrecht, shortlisting only Maastricht and Rotterdam. Utrecht was specifically eliminated because its proposal to span a tent over its Jaarbeurs offered limited possibilities for testing on location and had a questionable suitability for events like the Eurovision Song Contest, while ‘s-Hertogenbosch was dropped due to an insufficient ceiling height in its Brabanthallen and too few hotel rooms blocked for potential visitors of the contest.
To review and discuss the location, venue and surrounding events for the remaining bids, NPO visited Maastricht on 17 July 2019 and Rotterdam on the following day. By late July, additional visits to the two shortlisted cities were deemed necessary to review production logistics. The EBU did not pay visits to either city. Maastricht and Rotterdam were to hand in revised versions of their bid books by 9 August 2019 to add details involving the cities’ social programmes, side-events and programme licensing. A “concept agreement” was put before the organisers in both Maastricht and Rotterdam in August 2019. While Rotterdam signed this agreement, the city council of Maastricht discussed and rejected it. Within the same council session, it was also clarified that the MECC would not receive additional renovations. On 30 August, Rotterdam was announced as the host city during a special broadcast on NPO 1 and NPO 2.
The contest’s slogan, “Open Up”, was unveiled on 24 October 2019. The official logo and branding was unveiled on 28 November 2019. Designed by CLEVER°FRANKE, it is “an abstract representation of the flag colours of the 41 countries participating in 2020 by first appearance to the contest”.
The EBU revealed the stage design for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 in December 2019. The design is inspired by the slogan “Open Up” and the typical Dutch flat landscape. The Eurovision stage was designed by German stage designer Florian Wieder, who also designed the stages for the contests in 2011–12, 2015, and 2017–19. Unlike the previous contest, the green room was placed inside to the main performance venue.
The contest would have been hosted by three presenters: actress and television host Chantal Janzen, singer and commentator for the contest Jan Smit, and singer Edsilia Rombley, who represented the Netherlands in the 1998 and 2007 contests. Beauty vlogger Nikkie de Jager (NikkieTutorials) would have been the presenter of the contest’s online content, including a behind-the-scenes YouTube series to be recorded with the participating artists. She would have also reported from the red carpet during the opening ceremony and was scheduled to make an appearance in all three live shows on 12, 14 and 16 May 2020. Roos Moggré and Andrew Makkinga would have hosted the contest’s press conferences.