Eurovision launches Online Village to replace real hub for 2021 comeback

Eurovision Song Contest creators have unveiled the event's online village which will open to visitors from around the world.

Crafted in collaboration with digital design agency Dept, events group Tribe and Rotterdam Festivals, the 3D world offers a virtual look at Rotterdam from the comfort of your own sofa.

It’s free to access, and the first time ever that the contest will host its own virtual village.

Usually, the Eurovision village would welcome thousands of fans each year in the run-up to the Grand Final. For the 2019 competition, almost 30 acres of parkland was opened up in Tel Aviv especially for the contest.

Crowds of up to 20,000 people are usually expected at each host city as preparations for the ceremony ramp up.

The online village will feature a main stage, which has been branded the "tower of power" by creators.

It will feature a livestream of all Eurovision performances, including a mixture of pre-planned material as well as a few surprises along the way.

Confirmed guests so far include two-time Eurovision winner Johnny Logan and Dutch DJ Afrojack.

Visitors to the site can also navigate to various locations across Rotterdam, including the Euromast – a 1950s observation tower – and the iconic Erasmus Bridge.

Dept creative director Max Pinas says people will be able to ‘fly’ to each location to view additional information and videos, with alerts set up to let you know if something special is being broadcast.

Several points of interest will be set up across the virtual village to showcase the Netherlands’ diversity, including a clip of Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb telling a specially recorded Eurovision story.

And there will be a lot of focus on LGBTQIA+ Pride, as the theme for Rotterdam is "opening up for everybody."

A ‘rainbow zebra’ will celebrate the city’s Pride movement, with a ’social wall’ set up to keep track of Eurovision chat on social media.

"You can zoom in and out of the map," Pinas explained. "Like you would when you get out of a train station and you just walk into the city and explore."

He added: "It looks like a normal city with a festival in it. You feel like you’re actually [there] rather than just looking at Google Maps."

While a live audience of 3,500 will be permitted at the Rotterdam Ahoy for this year’s Eurovision, social distancing and Covid safety measures will still be in place.

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But it’s good news for fans after the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the pandemic.

It comes after the BRIT Awards were the first live UK music ceremony to welcome a live audience of 4,000 earlier this month, offering priority to key workers.

The virtual village officially opens on Saturday, May 15 ahead of the first semi-final on May 18.

It can be accessed here.

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