This year's Eurovision Song Contest has been cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers confirmed on Wednesday, marking the first time that the much-loved competition has ever been scrapped.
The European Broadcasting Union, which manages the annual pan-European show, said it was „extremely saddened“ to take the decision.
This year’s contest was set to take place in the Dutch city of Rotterdam in May, with 41 countries taking part in two semi-finals and a final.
„We are very proud of the Eurovision Song Contest, that for 64 years has united people all around Europe. And we are deeply disappointed about this situation,“ the show’s executive supervisor, Jon Ola Sand, said in a statement.
„We regret this situation very much, but I can promise you: the Eurovision Song Contest will come back stronger than ever,“ he said. Organizers and the city of Rotterdam will „continue a conversation“ regarding next year’s event, the EBU’s statement added.
Eurovision, which began in 1956, has helped catapult artists including Abba to international stardom.
It is avidly followed across much of Europe, and is lauded and mocked in equal measure for its uniquely kitsch and frequently surreal performances.
Last year’s edition in Tel Aviv, Israel, was watched by 182 million people worldwide, according to the EBU.
Many European countries have shuttered their borders, restricted travel and banned mass gatherings in recent days as the coronavirus pandemic has deepened.
The Netherlands has recorded more than 1,700 coronavirus cases and 43 deaths during the pandemic, making it one of the worst affected countries in Europe.