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Birmingham ‘can put on a great party’ as it makes Eurovision shortlist

The city is in a seven-strong shortlist to host the show, along with Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

Ozzy Osbourne
Ozzy Osbourne

Birmingham “can put on a great party” for next year’s Eurovision Song Contest after making the shortlist of UK cities bidding to host the competition, civic chiefs have said.

Flush from hosting a successful Commonwealth Games, Birmingham was named alongside Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle, as possible venues for the glittering 2023 vocal showcase.

The competition was set to be held in Ukraine after Kalush Orchestra won this year’s contest, but Russia’s invasion meant organisers instead selected the UK – whose entry Sam Ryder came second – as host.

Glastonbury Festival 2022
Kalush Orchestra, Eurovision winners from Ukraine (Yui Mok/PA)

Reacting on Friday, Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward said: “We are delighted to be one of the seven shortlisted cities.

“This is a city of sanctuary, a city who has welcomed people from around the world and made their home here.

“We would love the honour of hosting, on behalf of Ukraine, the Eurovision song contest next year.”

The council leader said the success of hosting the “best-ever” Commonwealth Games, whose closing ceremony featured a towering performance from legendary West Midlands rocker Ozzy Osbourne, showed the city was “up for the challenge”.

Melisa and Natalia Kogut
Adoptive Brummies Melisa and Natalia Kogut, who fled the war in Ukraine in March, to live in Birmingham (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Birmingham was also the last UK city to host Eurovision, in 1998.

Mr Ward added: “Now we’re short-listed, we’ll look to kick on from this and proceed through to the next round.

“But we’ve just hosted what has widely been acclaimed as possibly the best-ever Commonwealth Games.

“So we have demonstrated, as a city, that we can do these huge multi-venue events at short notice in a way few other locations can.

“We are definitely up for the challenge, and we want to make this a celebration of Ukraine.”

Mr Ward. who said his Eurovision fandom goes “all the way back to the early 70s and Abba” added: “We are a city who can put on a great party.

“We have some 450 people who’ve come here from Ukraine since the war with Russia began, we’ve another 200 on the way.

“We have the largest Ukrainian population outside London, so we are the ideal location really to give Ukraine a real celebration of Ukrainian culture and people.”

He said the Resorts World Arena proposed contest venue, on the NEC complex near Birmingham Airport, was also “second to none”.

“I feel overjoyed,” he said.

“We are very much a city of immigration, a city that has welcomed the world, and we do that in style.”

Guy Dunstan, managing director of arenas for NEC Group, said the 15,000-seater arena – which hosted the Concert for Ukraine, earlier this year, and has played host to acts from Metallica to Harry Styles, had “all the credentials”.

“It’s in the centre of the country, we’ve got an airport next door to it, we’ve got the NEC halls, hotels, it’s at the heart of the UK transport network,” he said.

“It’s got all the credentials to host an event of the scale of the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Also cheering the news, after it was announced live on BBC Radio 2, were adoptive Brummies Natalia Kogut and her 12-year-old daughter Melisa.

Mrs Kogut and her family were forced to flee their home city of Kyiv, where she was a lecturer at one of the country’s top universities, the National Technology Universities, coming to the UK in March on a three-year visa.

Her daughter, Melisa, sang the Ukrainian national anthem for Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street in May.

Mrs Kogut together with son Akim, 18, and her mother Galina Timchuk, were originally with a host family, but now have their own accommodation.

The Kogut family
The Kogut family are “proud” of their adoptive city – and have high hopes for its Eurovision prospects (Richard Vernalls/PA)

Reacting to the news, Mrs Kogut said: “We would be very happy if Eurovision could take place in Birmingham – the Ukrainian community is huge here.”

While it is a bittersweet moment given Russia’s war in Ukraine meant the contest cannot take place in her homeland, she added: “The whole UK supports Ukraine more than any other country.

“I believe it should take place in the UK – and especially in Birmingham,” she added

Mrs Kogut is hoping an end to hostilities will come sooner rather than later, meaning the whole family can be reunited.

But until that day comes, Mrs Kogut said she was grateful to her adoptive home, adding: “Thank you very much to all the people here in Birmingham.”

“We are happy – and proud (of Birmingham).”

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