HAARETZ.COM REPORTS / ISRAEL – The anticipated stream of tourists to the Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in Tel Aviv on May 14-18, has not materialized. Producers said Sunday that about only 5,000 Eurovision tourists are expected to land in Israel. This is a modest number compared to competitions held in other countries as well as early predictions of tens of thousands of tourists. Rocket fire on southern Israel has not changed preparations for the competition, which on Sunday entered its second day. Delegation members already in Israel are conveying a sense of business as usual and that a decision has been made not to give too much attention at the moment to the security situation.
For the time being the Home Front Command is allowing preparations for the event to go forward and rehearsals are underway at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. No delegation has canceled its participation. However, rocket strikes in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and further escalation could shut down the event.
The Eurovision producers announced the cancellation of sales for the Green Room (VIP) semi-finals. Thousands of expensive tickets to the event were put on sale, at prices ranging from hundreds of shekels to more than a thousand ($280) for space in the hall where the competing delegations sit during the broadcast.
A week and a half before the first semi-finals, due to anemic ticket sales, Kan Broadcasting Company has cancelled Green Room sales for the semis. People who already bought tickets will get their money back. In contrast, Green Room tickets for the finals on May 18 are sold out.
In a press conference Sunday afternoon, the Belgian delegation was asked about the security situation and whether they were concerned about being in Israel now. At first the event host, Sivan Avrahami, stopped them and said: “Before you answer, it’s important to remember that we are responsible for the production of Eurovision and the country is responsible for the safety of the citizens and the people. We are following their instructions.”
Belgian delegation head Leslie Cabel then took the microphone and said Eurovision was an amazing contest and their song “Wake Up” deals with friendship, values and sustainability. The Georgian representative, Oto Nemsadza, was also asked about the situation and gave a diplomatic answer – that he was there for the music.
As of Sunday, tickets were still available at relatively low prices. The production team also launched a cooperative initiative with the Tel Aviv municipality and the Tel Aviv bicycle company Tel-O-Fun to price a pair of tickets to the rehearsals at 180 shekels ($50).
IN THE MEANTIME
Jon Ola Sand, the Norwegian television producer who is the executive producer of the song contest, stated Sunday that safety and security is always of paramount importance for the Eurovision Broadcasting Union.
“We continue to work alongside KAN and the Home Front Command to safeguard the well-being of everyone working in and joining us at Expo Tel Aviv,” said Sand. “We will continue to closely monitor the current situation and rehearsals will continue as normal.”
Sand had told Norwegian paper Aftenposten in April that there was no good replacement for holding the song contest in Tel Aviv as scheduled, following a late March barrage of rockets prior to Israel’s April 9 national elections. Sand said then that the Eurovision organizers “always have a Plan B,” but that he didn’t have a “good replacement for Eurovision in Tel Aviv. That’s where we want to be, and it’s what we’re working towards.” Sand wouldn’t elaborate on the details of Eurovision’s Plan B to Aftenposten. He was asked if he feared some artists would withdraw from the contest because of safety concerns in Tel Aviv, and said it could happen “but we haven’t had any indication of that so far.”