Despite the controversy over initially allowing Russia to compete, Eurovision 2022 had a happy ending. After the massive outcry demanding the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) ban Russia for invading its neighbor Ukraine unprovoked, Putin declared his country was exiting the competition completely, including counter-banning the EBU-sponsored network that made Russia eligible to enter the competition in the first place. As for Ukraine, its originally apolitical entry took on added meaning as its cities were decimated, and it was not a giant surprise that the popular vote overwhelmingly gave it the win.
Despite President Zelenskyy's positive talk, Ukraine's capital city, Mariupol, will be unable to host the 2023 competition. (The euphemistic phrasing the EBU used as to why is "security concerns," a nice way of saying that the city is a bombed-out ruin, and holding it there is asking for Putin to attack.) That too was not a surprise. What was a surprise was the first runner-up, who stepped in to provide a venue for Ukraine to host from. The U.K.'s Sam Ryder, a TikTok artist, took home the best standing the country had received in decades in the competition. And that's how the U.K. went from coming in dead last with null points in 2021 post-Brexit to hosting the 2023 Eurovision competition.
Though most might have assumed London would be the most logical city to provide a space for Ukraine, the U.K. did not actually win Eurovision outright. The optics of the capital city taking over hosting duties would perhaps not have gone over well. Secondary cities Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, and Sheffield were considered, with the finalists coming down to Glasgow or Liverpool. Perhaps the specter of looming Scottish independence did in the Northern bid, with Liverpool ultimately being chosen as the location for the 2023 contest.
The home of the Beatles is the fifth largest city in the U.K. with a population of 2.24 million, and has been awarded the title of hosting "the 67th Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine" Liverpool Arena (known as M&S Arena), will be the host venue, located next to the River Mersey, near to where the John Lennon Peace Memorial is located. The BBC and EBU will organize the Contest in consultation with UA: PBC, Ukraine’s public broadcaster. As expected, the two semi-finals will air live from the arena on Tuesday, May 9, and Thursday, May 11, with the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 booked for Saturday, May 13. Tickets will not go on sale until early 2023.
The pullout of Russia from the contest ultimately reduce the number of eligible countries to 48 from 2019's high of 50. (Belarus' EBU station BTRC, was suspended in 2021 for government propaganda.) Of those, eight countries are currently inactive due to the EBU's participation fees. Unfortunately, the Russian exit has only exacerbated the situation by removing one of the show's more prominent financial contributors, with Bulgaria, Montenegro, and North Macedonia announcing they will also have to sit out this year.
In all, 37 countries are expected to participate in this year's contest, with artists to be named either by appointment, jury, or popular contest over the next few months. (Currently, only Israel and Cyprus have announced their artists.) Thirty-one countries will compete in the semi-finals; the order and groupings will be determined by draw in January. The Big Five, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, will go straight to the Grand Final, as will Ukraine as the 2022 winner.
More on Eurovision 2023 when the semi-final draw occurs next year. The 67th edition of Eurovision will stream live on Peacock here in the U.S.