With Helena Paparizou receiving the treasured trophy of last Saturday�s 50th Eurovision Song Contest, everybody assumed it would be Athens 2006 next year. Indeed, with an official announcement issued last night, ERT confirmed their intention to host the event in the Greek capital, taking into account EBU�s wish to take advantage of the city�s Olympic boost. There will not be a definite decision until late June, however, and something of a controvesy is starting to take shape on the issue. A growing number of people think that Athens had its fair share of fame and investment during the 2004 Olympic Games and advocate Greece�s second largest city, Thessaloniki, to host the event.
“ERT intends to hold the Eurovision Song Contest in Athens, taking into account EBU�s already expressed wish for the event to be combined with the Olympic facilities and amenities that the city of Athens has to offer”, was the official announcement of next year's host broadcaster. With an abundance of �state of the art� venues and a brand new transport system, Athens looks indeed as the obvious choice.
However, ERT also makes clear that “discussions with the EBU about the event will start in approximately one month and, until then, ERT will have come to its final decisions”. This final bit could arguably be overlooked, but for growing opposition to Athens hosting another major event after the Olympic Games. “We will fight for it”, was the comment Mr. Panaghiotis Psomiadis, Prefect of Thessaliniki, made. Some members of the Greek Parliament have already expressed their opposition to Athens hosting the contest by letters sent to the Prime Minister. “Athens received such a great exposure because of the Olympic Games; people will remember it for the next thirty years. Why should we deny the rest of Greece the chance to be in the spotlight?” parliament member Magriotis asked.
Thessaloniki has a long history of promoting the arts in Greece. Long before Greece participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, it was the city�s song festival that enjoyed the highest popularity and attention. Thessaloniki Song Festival used to be part of the annual International Exhibition of Thessaloniki and, even though the exhibition itself goes from strength to strength, the song contest seized to exist in the mid-90�s due to decreasing popularity.