The Eurovision Song Contest is set to take place in Tel Aviv for the first time in 2019, it was announced Thursday. The 64th edition of the annual international song competition will be broadcast around the world from the Expo Tel Aviv International Convention Center in Israel with semi-final shows on May 14 and 16, and the final broadcast May 18 next year.
Israel was set as the host nation for Eurovision 2019 following the triumph of its 2018 entry Netta Barzilai (pictured) with the song “Toy” in May this year, when the event took place in Lisbon, Portugal. “Toy” went on to top the Billboard dance club chart in the U.S. in August, a first for an Israeli singer. Eurovision tradition is that the winning nation hosts the following year’s event.
Israeli pubcaster KAN was required to present at least two candidate cities to the Eurovision board, which chose the Tel Aviv location. It beat out bids from Jerusalem and Eilat. Jon Ola Sand, executive supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest, said that while all the bids received were exemplary Tel Aviv provided “the best overall set-up for the world’s largest live music event.” It marks the first time Tel Aviv has hosted the event.
“We are excited to bring the contest to a brand new city and are looking forward to working together with KAN to make 2019’s Eurovision Song Contest the most spectacular one yet,” said Sand.
It marks the third time Israel has hosted the event. The country is the most successful non-European country to take part in the contest having won four times, with previous wins in 1978, 1979 and 1998. Jerusalem hosted the competition in 1979 and 1999. The 1980 event was hosted by The Hague after Israel declined to host due to expense, having won two years running.
Eurovision has become a much-loved annual event across Europe since it began in 1956 with just seven countries participating. Since then 52 countries have taken part with the competition growing beyond Europe, even including Australia since 2015. This year saw 43 countries take part, equaling the record for most participating nations in a single year.
The live show, which is watched by approximately 200 million viewers worldwide, sees each country submit an original song which is performed live. After all songs have been performed viewers in each country can then vote for their favorites, excluding the song from their own nation, with points awarded by ranking. The country with the most points is declared the winner. In 2008 the format was extended to include two semi-final shows, held on the Tuesday and Thursday prior to the final – which traditionally takes place on a Saturday – as the number of participating countries had swelled to preclude featuring every entrant in a single show.
Amongst the contest’s most renowned winners are Swedish pop group ABBA, who won in 1974 with the now legendary song “Waterloo,” and Canadian singer Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland in 1988 with the winning entry “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi.”