Belfast City Council has agreed to submit an official bid to host the Eurovision Song Contest next year if the city is shortlisted on Friday.
A two-stage process is under way to select the host city in the UK, Eurovision runners up, after it was decided the event cannot be held in war-torn Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision in Italy in May and Ukraine had hoped to be able to host the event in 2023.
On Wednesday night, Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee discussed the issue and decided to support a full bid if Belfast makes the shortlist.
The BBC – which broadcasts the contest in the UK and will make the selection alongside the event organisers the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – has specified that the host city will be chosen using a two-stage selection process.
Once all the applications have been received, a process will take place whereby cities will be shortlisted “based on their ability to meet the requirements and their responses around capability and experience”.
When asked about making the shortlist, SDLP councillor Seamus de Faoite told the PA news agency: “I suppose we don’t know, we’ll see what Friday brings, but I think Belfast has a really strong case to make.
“We understand from the BBC and the European Broadcasting Union that so much of the show has to be about the original winners, about Ukraine. I think Belfast has a very particular message to be able to sell there which is to say: we actually understand the value of peace, how difficult it is to build, and the desire of the Ukrainian people to secure it.”
When asked about infrastructure, Mr de Faoite argued that Dublin in the late 80s and early 90s wasn’t “lightyears ahead” in terms of its infrastructure facilities or tourism, and that the song contest helped showcase the value of Ireland as a tourist destination – something that could also be done for Belfast.
Speaking while on his way to celebrate the news, Mr de Faoite added: “We know that we are a kind of a small fish in this, but that has never stopped us before.
“We successfully hosted the MTV European Music Awards 10 years ago, we hosted the World Police and Fire Games, the Open in Portrush, there has been so many things that the North has been able to successfully host, put on a great show, and a wonderful welcome for people coming from all over the world.
“I see no reason why we can’t do the same for the Eurovision.”