Feeling the live music throughout your body seems like a distant memory by now, doesn’t it? Some – more than 3,500 people, to be exact – experienced what it’s like at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The popular show famously welcomes delegations from all over the world. To call that a logistical hurdle would be an understatement: a series of broadcasts with live audiences isn’t an easy feat to pull off during an ongoing pandemic. But what the Eurovision organizers managed to deliver in Rotterdam Ahoy Arena was a masterclass on maintaining safety during mass events. And since safety measures aren’t going away anytime soon, it might be a masterclass for all of those who want to kickstart the event industry.
The Eurovision safety choreography
To ensure minimizing any risk, Eurovision had to make sacrifices. Before the show, the organizers announced that the delegations and the audience would need to be much smaller than in the past. Most journalists were not on-site but instead were provided with an online press center. Everyone in Rotterdam Ahoy had to get tested every 48 hours, and artists moved through so-called “Safe Harbour” zones. Visitors had to sit; they had to arrive and leave within dedicated timeslots and wear masks while moving around.
BBC’s report paints a picture of a bombastic show where each step was carefully calculated. The goal: not only to ensure the safety of the Eurovision audience, but also of delegations from 39 countries. Delegation bubbles did not mix with anyone else, and several artists voluntarily kept themselves isolated before traveling. Considering how international the event is, unsurprisingly, some people did contract Covid-19. However, it didn’t endanger the show or other participants. The positive members of Polish and Icelandic delegations quarantined themselves. On top of that, their “bubbles” were in isolation until they got their test results.
What if someone suddenly couldn’t perform because of the safety measures? Each country pre-recorded a backup performance in advance, and the performer from Australia, for example, had to rely on that.
As for the journalists allowed on-site, the masks were mandatory, and they even conducted the interviews from a safe distance. Parties and side events obviously got a red light this year.
Are concerts next?
It hasn’t been the best year for the music industry. Fans worldwide crave concerts so much that some of them decided to risk it. Participating in several experimental concerts around the world, they have tried to prove that large-scale events can be safe. Even the Eurovision Song Contest was part of the Fieldlab Events research program, an initiative investigating the possibilities of ensuring safety at events.
We’d say you can dare to be hopeful, as the results are promising. Lancet, a respected peer-reviewed scientific journal, just released the study from a Barcelona event. The participants had to undergo testing and wear masks. However, they didn’t need to socially distance themselves except in separate areas for drinking and smoking. Out of around 500 people, not even one contracted Covid-19 during the 5-hour event. In the similarly-sized control group, two people tested positive.
And while singing your heart out with a facemask on may not be the definition of fun, returning to social life is worth some compromises.