Graham Norton Weighs In On Eurovision Organisers' Decision Not To Host In Ukraine Next Year

"I think everyone is sad... that must have been a really terrible decision for the EBU."
Graham Norton has served as the UK's Eurovision commentator since 2009
Graham Norton has served as the UK's Eurovision commentator since 2009
BBC/So TV/Christopher Baines/Matt Burlem

Graham Norton has spoken out amid ongoing talks about the UK hosting next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Back in May, Ukraine won the annual music competition by a landslide with their representatives Kalush Orchestra.

While the winning country traditionally hosts the event the following year, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) released a statement last week saying that because of the ongoing Russian invasian, it would not be feasible for Eurovision to take place in Ukraine in 2023.

After “exploring all scenarios” with Ukrainian broadcast UA:PBC, the EBU shared “their sadness and disappointment that next year’s Contest cannot be held in Ukraine”.

They added: “As a result of this decision, in accordance with the rules and to ensure the continuity of the event, the EBU will now begin discussions with the BBC, as this year’s runner-up, to potentially host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest in the United Kingdom.”

Asked for his thoughts, the UK’s Eurovision commentator Graham Norton told the PA news agency: “I think everyone is sad about it in one sense, because that must have been a really terrible decision for the EBU.

“They didn’t want to give that news to Ukraine and nobody wanted that to happen.”

He continued: “Now that it has happened, I know the BBC are looking at it really seriously, but will it happen? I don’t know. You know as much as I do.”

Graham Norton
Graham Norton
Mike Marsland via Getty Images

While a No.10 spokesperson previously insisted they “welcomed” the idea of hosting Eurovision in the UK, prime minister Boris Johnson claimed over the weekend that Ukraine both “can” and “should” put on the event in 2023.

Speaking to reporters shortly after returning from an unannounced visit to Kyiv, Johnson explained: “I have just been to Kyiv. I won’t say it is completely jiving and buzzing and popping but it is far, far more lively. People are much more confident. People are out in the streets eating in cafes and restaurants in a way that they weren’t even few weeks ago.

“The Ukrainians won the Eurovision Song Contest. I know we had a fantastic entry, I know we came second and I’d love it to be in this country. But the fact is that they won and they deserve to have it.”

He added: “I believe that they can have it and I believe that they should have it. I believe Kyiv or any other safe Ukrainian city would be a fantastic place to have it.”

Eurovision victors Kalush Orchestra
Eurovision victors Kalush Orchestra
MARCO BERTORELLO via Getty Images

Following the EBU’s statement, a representative for the Ukrainian broadcaster claimed they’d been “denied the right” to host the contest and called for negotiations on a new location to be put on hold.

“We are disappointed with this decision of the EBU,” they said. “During this month, a large number of people in Ukraine have thrown all their efforts to fulfil the conditions for holding Eurovision in our country. Security is, of course, our first priority.

“The team of UA:PBC, state and local authorities did a thorough job and offered different options. It is a pity to see such an unappealable statement, therefore, we ask our partners to hold further negotiations.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said last month he wanted to see the 2023 event going ahead in Ukraine, comments which were echoed by the Kalush Orchestra.

Since debuting in the competition in 2003, Ukraine has racked up three wins, with Kyiv consequently hosting the Eurovision live final in both 2005 and 2017.