London should clearly be chosen as the host of next year’s Eurovision Song Contest because the capital has a significant Ukrainian population, Sadiq Khan has said.
The UK will host the 2023 competition as this year’s winners Ukraine are unable to perform hosting duties due to the ongoing war with Russia. But as cities including Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff vie for the responsibility, Khan has said “it has got to be London”.
The mayor said it had been a “long time coming” for London to host Eurovision. The contest last came to the capital in 1977, when Marie Myriam won for France at the now-demolished Wembley Conference Centre.
If London does get the contest, there is a strong chance it could come to Greenwich and the 20,000-capacity O2 arena. Wembley Arena, which can hold 12,500 people, is another contender.
Khan said: “I’m really excited [Eurovision] is coming to the UK and, actually, whether it’s in another part of the UK or London it’s really important that we do Ukraine proud. It’s a fact, though, that the largest number of Ukrainians in the UK live in London.
“It’s also a fact that there are many Londoners of Ukrainian origin and this is going to be Eurovision hosted by Ukraine in another city in the UK. Clearly it’s got to be London.”
According to preliminary data from last year’s census about 19,000 Ukrainian-born people live in London — more than half of Britain’s Ukrainian population.
Just across the river from the O2, Newham has 1,340 Ukrainian-born residents – the highest figure in the UK. Greenwich has 940, the fifth-highest number. The top 20 local authorities with the biggest Ukrainian populations are all in London. Brent, which is home to Wembley Arena, has 540.
Last week, the BBC kicked off the bidding process to decide the 2023 Eurovision host city after accepting the European Broadcasting Union’s invitation for the UK to host on behalf of Ukraine. The process is expected to conclude in the autumn with the host city announced shortly afterwards.
The UK was offered the chance to host as its act Sam Ryder finished second this year, behind the Ukrainian folk rap group Kalush Orchestra.
Mr Khan said he was “speaking to the authorities to make sure they understand the strength of feeling from the Ukrainians” about London being an ideal host. He added: “We’ve got many of the facilities that Eurovision would need in relation to hosting.”
However, Birmingham, which has just finished staging the Commonwealth Games, and Glasgow, fresh from hosting Cop26, are the bookies’ favourites. A shortlist of potential host cities is set to be revealed tomorrow.
Organisers face the challenge of finding a large enough venue that can be available for next year’s contest in May.
According to the BBC, there is currently no large arena in the UK with enough of a gap in its event listings to host Eurovision, with several council leaders saying they’ve been told producers will need the venue six to eight weeks before the final.
Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain
Joe Talora is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority, based at the Evening Standard. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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