Luzhkov Schedules Eurovision Week to Open on Victory Day

The opening ceremony of the Eurovision Song Contest will be held May 9, the national Victory Day holiday, while the final will be held May 16, Mayor Yury Luzhkov said in a decree published Thursday on the City Hall web site.

It will be the first time that Russia hosts Europe's most prestigious pop contest, thanks to Russian singer Dima Bilan's victory with his song "Believe" at this year's event in Belgrade, Serbia.

The opening ceremony will be held on the square outside Moscow State University on Vorobyovy Gory, while the contest itself is to be staged in Olimpiisky Stadium according to Luzhkov's decree. The closing ceremony will be held at the Gostiny Dvor exhibition center, a stone's throw from the Kremlin.

The government has earmarked 1 billion rubles ($36.5 million) for the event, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov told Itar-Tass earlier this month.

The event is being organized by state-run Channel One television, while Deputy Mayor Valery Vinogradov is in charge of the project.

Legendary composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has promised to write the song for Britain's contestant, visited Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha earlier this month.

The composer talked to Putin for about an hour in a meeting that will be broadcast on BBC television next year, according to a statement on Lloyd Webber's web site. Putin promised that he would vote for the British entry, the composer said.

In a change from this year's event, performers in next year's contest will be evaluated by juries from each country as well as by a telephone voting system tabulating calls from viewers across Europe.

There were complaints about block voting after Bilan's victory. He received the maximum 12 points from six Eastern-bloc countries, as well as from Israel, with its large Russian-speaking population.