Trying to get a seat in the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where the Eurovision finals are taking place, isn’t that simple.
Last year’s Eurovision was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year, the Dutch organizers have come up with an elaborate admission and testing scheme to keep the virus out while holding the largest music contest on the planet. All visitors have to undergo a test for the virus, people over 70 are not allowed and reporters are banned from the main auditorium during the final round.
More than 3,500 mainly Dutch fans were in to see the show, while journalists, some 400 of them, have been tucked away in a dark, rather depressing conference hall, where they can follow the event on four large screens.
Inside, people were filled with exuberance, partly because the show was going on after a year’s hiatus, and partly because it just felt so good to be out of lockdown. The costumes were colorful: Near me, two men were wearing orange tuxedos and another man wore a British flag as a cape.
Yet some of the reporters working for specialist Eurovision blogs and other outlets told me the setup that kept them away from the crowds made them sad. “Eurovision is about bringing people together, but they are forced to keep people apart,” said William Lee Adams of Wiwibloggs. “I’ll gladly wear a military grade face mask, if I can be among the singers and the public.”
I decided not to miss out on the live event. So I found myself at 10 a.m. this morning standing in the rain on a drab field outside of the city of Lisse for my Covid test. In hand, I had my ticket, which cost a mere €650, or about $790.