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If Ireland actually won the Eurovision, would we have anywhere to hold it?

Even if we don’t win tonight, we’ve been doing better in recent years – but could Ireland handle the Eurovision now that it’s gotten so much bigger?

Pat Kenny hosting the Eurovision in the RDS in 1988
Pat Kenny hosting the Eurovision in the RDS in 1988
Image: Screengrab via YouTube

NOT TO TEMPT fate or anything, but Ryan Dolan has done a good job so far in helping Ireland’s resurgence at the Eurovision after the doldrums of the mid-2000s.

He pulled off a safe but crowd-pleasing performance on Tuesday night, flew through the semi-final with his Euro-friendly pop song,  and is currently a respectable 7th-favourite to win tonight’s contest.

All of which is good, but when you’re up against the juggernauts of Finland’s girl-on-girl kiss and favourites Denmark with their mega-voiced dance pop epic, 7th-place isn’t really going to cut it.

But Ireland is nothing if not optimistic. One Eurovision expert has pointed out that winners rarely come out of nowhere. Countries often begin their path to victory by giving a good performance in the semi-finals, coming in the top 10 for a couple of years, gradually creeping up to the top 5, and drawing new fans (and more importantly, people from other countries who develop a fondness for the country and begin to consider voting for it) along the way – before eventually hitting the top spot.

That’s been the pattern that has emerged in recent years as the Eurovision has grown massively, and if it’s true then it bodes well for Ireland – after not even making it out of the semi-finals in 2008 and 2009, Jedward finished a respectable 8th in 2011.

So best case scenario: say Ireland actually wins tonight (or this time next year, or the year after): what would happen? Where would we hold it?

What venue could actually hold that many people?

(Video: MrEsc2012baku/YouTube)

If you can remember back to the days when Ireland fell into a pattern of winning and hosting the Eurovision in the mid-90s, you may remember the contests held in Dublin and Cork.

Eurovision shows have changed dramatically in the intervening fifteen or so years. Ireland may have had Riverdance, but the contests nowadays are on a much bigger scale, more comparable to a giant pop concert than anything else. There’s huge screens, fancy graphics and a LOT more people attending the actual venue for the show itself.

“The average audience at the venue for the Eurovision nowadays is around 23 or 24 thousand people” says Johnny Fallon, who literally co-wrote the book on this year’s Eurovision.

That immediately puts Ireland in the difficult position of trying to find a venue large enough, particularly when you bear in mind that Germany held the show in an arena holding 54,000 people in 2011.

But Fallon points out that somewhere like the O2 in Dublin, which has a capacity of 14,000, could potentially hold enough people.

“There have been smaller arenas used in recent years: Turkey held it in 2004 with an audience of about 13,000, and when Finland won with Lordi the arena held 15,000, so it does happen,” he says.

Having a venue on the smaller size eases some of the pressure when it comes to tickets, especially when tickets have to be sold for three nights altogether – the two semi-finals as well as the final itself. Fallon says that demand for tickets is generally high, with fans in the host county as well as Eurovision ‘tourists’ who will travel to the event every year prowling for tickets.

Any potential venues in Ireland would also need to be able to handle laser lighting, flames, heavy graphics and giant screens, which have become the mainstay of performances in recent years but which would rule out older venues. Weather concerns also mean that outdoor venues are a non-runner, particularly in unpredictable climates like Ireland, so somewhere like the O2 becomes more likely to be the frontrunner than say, Croke Park.

Can we afford it?

The next big question is the money. Despite all the jokes about Ireland being too poor to actually be able to afford to host the contest, Johnny Fallon points out that Ireland played host twice in the 1980s (1981 and 1988) despite the dire economic circumstances of the time.

“It very much depends how much the host country is willing to spend on it,” he says. “If the national television company wants to spend a fortune on it, they can. If they don’t, then they can very much cut down the production”.

The last time Ireland hosted the Eurovision in the last 90s, RTE spent around €5 million in total. Costs have escalated since then: Russia holds the record for the most extravagant Eurovision, spending the equivalent of €31 million to host in 2009.

However recent years have seen Finland do it for €12.5 million and Norway spending €25 million. Fallon estimates that RTE would need to spend around €15 to €20 million to host it.

“It would be a fairly major committment but on the other hand, the money is always found. Ireland has done it before so we wouldn’t need to convince people of our ability to host, in the way that Russia did a few years ago,” he says. “Plus in the worst case scenario, sometimes the bigger countries will help out financially if there are problems.”

So not to get anyone’s hopes up or anything, but all this means that Ireland could technically host the Eurovision. Next, we just have to win the damn thing again…

Read: Ireland’s Eurovision semi-final: spacemen, nakedness and Obelix >

Read: 6 performances which mean Ryan Dolan has a lot to live up to >

Read: The highs and lows of Ireland at Eurovision >

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