Glasgow and Liverpool wait to hear which will host Eurovision

<span>Photograph: Stefania D’Alessandro/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Stefania D’Alessandro/Getty Images

Will they be made up in Liverpool or pure gallus in Glasgow? Crowds at the Bank Arena or hordes at the Hydro? Will there be carousing in the Cavern Club or at King Tut’s?

The cities of Liverpool and Glasgow are expected to learn within days which one of them will host next year’s Eurovision song contest and deliver a one-off spectacular on behalf of Ukraine.

Both cities last week hosted members of the BBC selection panel as they made their final pitches for a prize that would be the economic and tourism equivalent of douze points.

Neither will reveal how much they would spend on Eurovision – the details are commercially sensitive – but previous events have cost between £8.5m and £21m, depending on the location and ambition of the host. The city of Baku, in Azerbaijan, spent an eye-watering £48m on building a venue to host the annual sequin-fest in 2012.

And there will be no time to celebrate for the winner. Although the grand final would not be held until next May, the first of the nearly 10,000 people involved in the production are expected to converge on Liverpool or Glasgow within weeks.

The two cities, once global industrial titans, are both heavily reliant on a tourism industry battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. They are run by councils that have struggled to find savings after a decade of public spending cuts, and they are both home to some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain.

Given the cost of living crisis and the prospect of further public spending on the way, it is perhaps an unusual time to spend millions of pounds to host a big party. But both insist Eurovision would deliver more than value for money.

Claire McColgan, the director of Culture Liverpool, said the extravaganza would be a “lifeline” for the city’s hospitality sector, which is still recovering from the pandemic, and that it would “provide hope” for businesses that were “probably going to be on their knees over winter”.

Billy Garrett, the director of sport and events at Glasgow Life, said the economic boost would last several months. There would be buildup events over eight weeks, he said, before the three live shows that culminate in the Saturday night final.

More than 160 million people tuned in to Eurovision’s three live shows last year. Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra were crowned winners ahead of the UK’s Sam Ryder, but Ukraine was deemed unable to host next year’s event because of Russia’s invasion.

Liverpool’s plans run from the inspired – adorning statues with traditional Ukrainian floral headdresses called vinoks, and decorating the city with Ukrainian street art – to the absurd: a city-wide game of hide-and-seek involving cutouts of Sonia, the Skelmersdale-born singer who came second in Eurovision 1993 with Better the Devil You Know.

Both Liverpool and Glasgow would open a Eurovision “village” around the main venue, expected to draw in thousands of tourists to either city. Such is the prize at stake that both are running “soft lobbying” operations to try to win the crown.

The Scottish Greens – huge Eurovision fanatics – are working with European colleagues in Brussels and Geneva to try to tilt it towards Glasgow, the bookies’ favourites. Liverpool has enlisted its Ukrainian sister city, Odesa, to lobby on its behalf.

Garrett raised eyebrows last week when he said in a BBC Radio 4 interview that the broadcaster, which decides the host city, was just “delaying the inevitable” and that Glasgow would win the contest.

He told the Guardian that Glasgow’s bid was “by far the most technically proficient”, adding that the city’s secret weapon was its population. “We are the world’s friendliest city. Glaswegians have a gallus-ness – that mix of creativity, confidence and self-depreciation – and we certainly know how to throw a party,” Garrett said.

Yet Liverpool is no stranger to a shindig. McColgan said the enthusiasm from scousers about hosting the event had been off the scale. “It’s been bonkers. Liverpool is just that really joyous place that embraces events like no other city in the UK.”

She added that it would be “more than just a normal Eurovision and a big party. It’s got so many different layers. We’re good at that here. We’re good at that community solidarity, and putting our arms around someone else who’s in distress.”