You won't find any aluminum coffee capsules at the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Or plastic cups and plates, for that matter: The continent's biggest music event is going green. Alison Langley reports from Vienna.
Host Vienna aims not only to show off why it has consistently been named the most liveable city on the planet, but will take one step further by proving that big events don't have to ruin the environment. So when the delegates and tourists start streaming in for the May 23 event they will find that the organizers have taken to heart the "reduce, re-use, recycle" mantra by environmentalists.
"The Eurovision Song Contest gives us the chance to present Austria in front of 200 million viewers as an open and tolerant country - and a land which uses its precious resources sustainably," Alexander Wrabetz, director general of Austria's public broadcaster, ORF told a press conference recently. "We hope this sets a new standard for future song contest event organizers."
The ecology plan starts by asking the 40 acts, their delegations and the audience to arrive at the Stadthalle, or even the public viewing area at the city hall, by public transportation, which will be free to ticketholders. The contestants from three continents - Australia will be represented for the first time - will perform on a stage lit by low-energy LED bulbs. Electricity to run the event will come entirely from sustainable sources: a mix of hydro, wind, biomass and solar energy.
The ecologically correct plan doesn't end with the use of reusable plates, cutlery and glasses. Food stands are encouraged to use locally grown products, with preference for organic and fair trade ingredients. Diesel-fuel generators won't be permitted. Instead, Ulli Sima, head of Vienna's environment department, said, emergency generators will be a sort of "enormous battery pack."
Tourists bringing their own water bottles can fill them up at one of the 900 bubblers already located throughout town. They can enjoy one of the 10 over-dimensional fountains, which the city is re-using from the 2008 World Cup Football events.
Not only will garbage and energy be reduced, plastic decorations that are not burned for energy will be re-functioned into handbags, which ORF will sell. Even the traditional handover of the keys to next year's ESC winner will include a present from the recycled material from Vienna.
Austria's interior minister, Andrae Rupprechter, said he hoped that the song contest's receipt of Austria's "Ecolabel" for "Green Meetings and Green Event" will promote awareness of the nation's unique certification. The Alpine nation is the only one to encourage conventions and events to be organized in an environmentally friendly way.
"We want the Green Song Contest to prove that even large events can be green, and our high standards for climate and environmentally friendly events can be transported to the entire world," he said.
But wait, there's more: Some 150 life-sized figures will be sprinkled throughout the city's gardens, which are designed to serve as the perfect backdrop for tourists looking for the special photo op (They, too, will eventually be recycled). And, 10,000 new hearts with the words, "12 points go to … Vienna Parks" will be planted among the flowerbeds and also be souvenirs.
In the end, the real winner might be our planet.