KYIV -- Ukraine has chosen its capital city, Kyiv, to host the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, putting an end to a contentious and delay-marred process.
Culture Minister Yevhen Nyschuk and National Television Company head Zurab Alasania announced the decision on September 9, telling a press conference in Kyiv that the capital had edged out the Black Sea port city of Odesa in a 19 to 2 vote, with one abstention.
The winning city was supposed to be announced on Ukrainian Independence Day, August 24. The announcement was delayed three times, however, before the capital was declared the winner. The reasons for the delays are unknown, but observers have said internal politics played a role. The committee that made the final decision was organized by the Culture Ministry.
Alasania said the selection process was suspenseful "up to the last moment -- I had no idea which way the decision would go."
Nyschuk likened the contest to a "boxing battle between Odesa and Kyiv."
Odesa and Kyiv became the final two choices to host the contest after a "battle of the cities" competition that included Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Lviv.
The six contestants were partly decided upon by a committee from the European Broadcasting Union that visited each city of them to inspect their infrastructure and evaluate their viability to host Eurovision.
But when it came down to the final decision, Kyiv was chosen because of its superior infrastructure.
"Kyiv has airports, and a sufficient number of hotels. The city is already very well prepared to host the event," Nyschuk said. The 11,000-seat International Exhibition Center in Kyiv's Left Bank suburb was chosen as the venue for the event.
Odesa, Nyschuk said, was slow to address issues with its worn airport runway, and there were challenges with the proposed venue -- the 34,000-seat Chornomorets Stadium built in 2011 -- including the need to install a roof.
Nyschuk said that while Dnipro, the third-place finisher, showed great enthusiasm for hosting the song contest, the eastern industrial city was considered to be "too close" to the front line of the ongoing conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists.
Alasania had said before the announcement that Ukraine's top leaders, President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, would be involved in the final decision.
"In my opinion, the question of what city will host Eurovision is political," Alasania told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency on September 6, adding that "only these two persons [Poroshenko and Hroysman] know what is going on."
But he walked back that statement on September 9, saying the two may have influenced the decision but were not a part of the final vote.
Ukraine was awarded the right to host the Eurovision Song Contest after Ukrainian singer Jamala won this year's contest with the song 1944, about the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union during World War II.
Jamala, 33, is herself of Crimean Tatar descent. While the lyrics of 1944 do not touch directly on the current tensions surrounding Russia's 2014 seizure of Crimea, the song's undertones were not lost on Ukrainians who adopted it almost as a modern anthem, and Russians who decried it for what they said was its clear political subtext.
Eurovision rules ban performances containing "lyrics, speeches, or gestures of a political or similar nature." Organizers ruled that the entry 1944 did not violate these rules.
Next year's Eurovision Song Contest is set to begin on May 9, the day Russia marks victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Kyiv also hosted the event in 2005, after Ukrainian pop star Ruslana won in 2004.